Cast: Jon Cross, Molly Kunz, John Gray
Writers: Dan Cantgallo, Paul Cantgallo, John Cross,
Directors: Dan Cantagallo, Paul Cantgallo.
Hitting rock bottom and having to start over is never an easy deal. I should know because I too had to start my life over again. There was a time I had a great place and had a job that paid really well. But now I’m working two jobs and can barely pay my rent at a crappy place the size of a hotel room. Now true I have never been to jail like the main character presented here, but I understand his situation. We sometimes get ourselves into these problems that we have to try our best to solve.
Recently released from Prison for robbing a bank. Benny(Jon Cross) moves back to his old town to start fresh. He owes a lot of money to a gangster(Jon Cross Sr) and is told to throw a fight which he does not want to do. Making matters worse his brother Dave (Benjamin Kanes) is now dating his ex-wife Kierra (Anne Jackson) and the threat that he may go back to his old lifestyle looms over his head. Benny has not had the best of luck his whole life. However, things may change for him when he meets a young girl named Stella(Molly Kunz).
The characters in this are very good and their relations to each other and the story felt real and genuine. I believed that both Jon Cross and Benjamin Kanes were brothers and even though Benny feels a little bit betrayed. I never got the notion that they wouldn’t help each other out if things got really bad. That’s what family is for. The henchmen of the gangster played by John Cross was also an interesting character. He wanted to be viewed as this tough Joe Pesci kind of thug who could harm guys who messed with him and could charm the ladies by acting so rough. Yet there seems to be another side to him that really doesn’t like the persona he plays. He just feels that he has too. The main love interest of Stella was good but I never fully understood of why she was there in the first place. Was she just trying to get away from something bad or was she just going on some sort of vacation. I don’t know. Also I was a bit confused at why Benny wanted to pursue this girl so much. She is very attractive and I can see why him and others would want to try to gain her affection. But I thought more could have been done to explain the admiration a little more. Still the scenes of both actors together were good because they have great chemistry and those moments didn’t feel too scripted either.
The cinematography and editing (also by Dan Cantagallo) was very interesting and creative in some moments and in others it felt like it was a bit of an over kill. The scene where Benny and a friend are at a race track and it just cuts to a montage of black & white still photos was a lot of fun and it reminded me of the short film “La Jetee“(“12 Monkeys” was the remake of that short). There is also a great moment when he is knocked down during a fight and when he hits the ground. The floor of the ring becomes water and he submerges through it. The montage of Benny making a sandwich at his job was a bit much because it’s just a sandwich. I don’t really need to see a bunch of fancy camera tricks to show a guy making a sandwich. Another moment that was kind of confusion was when both Stella and Benny are at a night club. They are dancing to some club music and having a great time. Later He goes out for a smoke but when he returns. He sees another guy trying to put the moves on her. There is a small scuffle between them and it looks like Benny knocks him out. After that you see they both Stella and Benny have gone their separate ways. I felt like there was a scene missing there that would explain why they went off in different directions.
“Benny The Bum” is the first feature film from Dan and Paul Cantgallo and the two do show incredible promise for their debut work, I am glad that they are doing original stories instead of remakes, but it would be interesting to see them take on an adaptation at some point in their career. They definitely have talent when it comes to writing characters and directing actors but they need to hold back a little with the fancy camera tricks and edits. Those types of elements work great in small doses and they have to somehow compliment the story. I look forward to their next feature.