PLOT: Frank (Kevin Interdonato), a former Marine and ex-baseball player now working construction, flies into a vengefully violent fit of rage when a shady character from his past shows up and kidnaps his wife.
REVIEW: If the old adage is true, if indeed there are only seven categorical stories that every one movie could be codified under, then it's not so much about the what as it is the how that makes one stand out. Why is this of import? Well, because BAD FRANK - the kickass kidnap gripper and feature debut of writer/director Tony Germinario - would seem to support such a claim, as it isn't so much about what the subject is, but how it's executed that marks its merits. In other words, BAD FRANK hasn't a terribly original premise to lean on, but because the material is handled so deftly - in large part due to the solid script and breakout performance by star and co-writer Kevin Interdonato - the unoriginality is excusable, the low-budget and lack of resources are forgivable, and in the end, what we're left with is a nastily entertaining little action-thriller that, if nothing else, should serve as a credible calling call for all the principals involved. Not a great flick, but I definitely want to see what Germinario and Interdonato do next!
Frank Pierce (Interdonato) lives the settled-down life of domesticity. He has a nice house in the Jersey burbs with his sexy RN wife Gina (Amanda Clayton), and now, after a short stint in the Marines and a failed stretch in the MLB, works construction to support their relatively lavish way of life. Thing is, he's on two types of medication for persistent migraines, and has estranged relations with both his mother and father. The former won't return his messages, and the latter, Charlie Pierce (a nice turn from former pugilist Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini), runs a bar in town while utterly disavowing his son's checkered past. And that's the key, for we don't quite know what he's been involved with, but we instantly sense a well of bubbling rage just below Frank's ostensibly calm facade. The dude's a time bomb, a pressure cooker. We can tell he's carrying heavy emotional baggage, the kind of past scars that he wears like badges. It's only a matter of time before he blows a gasket and goes berserk.
Enter Travis (Brandon Heitkamp), a small time hood who presses his old pal Frank into pulling a job with him. We're then given the ever oily Tom Sizemore as Mickey Duro, another low-rent mafia wannabe who pushes dope, girls, guns and the like. Turns out Frank used to work in close cahoots with Mickey, and before you know it, a botched heist job soon pits the two against each other in a fit of double-sided blame. Not so long after, Mickey lashes out by ordering one of his goons, Nico (Russ Russo, another co-writer), to kidnap Gina and demonstrate to Frank they're not to be trifled with. Oh but that they are, precisely that, as Frank soon uncorks the smoldering cauldron of rage he's tamped down for so damn long. Without giving too much away, it's here where the script unfolds a unique retaliatory plot-line that warrants serious recommendation. What Frank does in response to his wife being taken is something I cannot recall ever seeing in a movie, which is quite a feat considering how simple it is, for one, but also because of how overstuffed and underwhelming a subgenre this flick largely adheres to tends to produce.
I realize this somewhat undercuts the originality critique mentioned up top, so to clarify, it's the overplayed premise of BAD FRANK that isn't so unique, not necessarily the various plot turns. The "how" spoken of earlier is exactly the wrinkle in plot here, in this movie, that separates itself - along with the acting - from your otherwise run of the mill take-and-track revenge picture. In fact, there's also another complicated reveal regarding the weasely Travis character, which further entangles the spitefully violent action that soon follows. It's a refreshing riff you can't quite foresee, which makes the tired and trampled premise feel a bit more vivified. These two off-color threads are what make the retributive aspects of the story more engrossing than the first half of the film may lead you to believe, and a large part of why you should cop a peek at this one when it hopefully lands a distribution deal after making the various festival rounds this fall.
Of course, none of this would work if not for the convincing lead turn by Interdonato, who not only appears in almost every single shot, but brings a raw and rough hewn authenticity that drives the entire narrative forward. He has a natural on camera ease and way of speaking that doesn't sound fake or forced. But really, it's the physical anxiety, the body English, the outwardly expressed, irrepressible angst of not only worrying for his wife, but trying doggedly to suppress his violent urges that really speaks volumes about his character. He even goes toe-to-toe with former heavyweight Tom Sizemore, who still compels - even slurry and drooling at times - every time he's onscreen. For a small, under-resourced movie like this, it's success must heavily rely on the script and acting that much more. Fortunately, for BAD FRANK, these basic strengths tend to mask the monetary shortcomings - lack of production value, set-pieces, locations, etc. - en route to delivering a brusque and muscular throwback action flick. Take note, if you're into retro-killer-kidnap comeuppance, BAD FRANK is the way to get there!