(A.k.a. THE LAST OUTPOST)
Frank (Kevin Interdonato) has a nice home in the country and a beautiful wife - Gina (Amanda Clayton) - who, as we discover in the film's opening moments, he enjoys energetic morning sex sessions with.
We soon learn, however, that Frank has a troubled past. He's spent the last few years getting himself straight. He's off the booze, no longer pursues a life of crime, and takes regular medication in a bid to keep his psychotic temper tantrums at bay. His parents still want nothing to do with him, but he's busy working on rebuilding that bridge too.
All of which is fair, until old pal Travis (Brandon Heitkamp) turns up requesting a favour. He's set up a backstreet meeting between two groups of drug dealers and wants Frank to accompany him in overseeing the transaction. Frank, being a fundamentally decent guy, agrees ... with clear reservations.
Naturally, the drug deal goes tits up, leaving two dealers dead. Not only that, it also affords us some insight into Frank's former life: it transpires that the meeting has been instigated on behalf of Frank's old boss, murderous dealer Mickey (Tom Sizemore).
Frank and Travis scarper from the scene of the crime. The following morning, Frank determines to do the "right thing" and ring the District Attorney's office, anonymously reporting the double homicide. Alas, Mickey has connections in the police force and he soon learns that Frank has ratted on him.
This spells bad news for Gina, who's abducted by Mickey's lunatic henchman Niko (Russ Russo).
Once Frank learns of this, his efforts at being a good guy go well and truly out of the window. He's behind on his medication anyway, but now he's back on the booze, and prone to knocking seven shades of shit out of people - even biting chunks of flesh out of their faces - in order to get his beloved wife back.
Events escalate dramatically when Frank decides to fight fire with fire by kidnapping Mickey's hot daughter, Crystal (Lynn Mancinelli)...
Shot on location in New Jersey on Red Dragon 6K cameras, the first thing to strike the viewer is how slick and polished BAD FRANK looks. Benefiting from beautiful photography, adept colour correction and a convincing cinematic sheen, this just goes to show how good a modestly budgeted film can be made to look these days.
Secondly, there's the script. For what is ostensibly an action/revenge flick, there's an unusual amount of persuasive character development in evidence here. This may make the film feel "slow" to some, but personally I felt it made the eventual pay-offs all the more rewarding. It helps that the cast are uniformly excellent. Interdonato is a believable, likeable lead; Russo makes for an enjoyable weasel of a villain; Sizemore hasn't been this good, this sleazy or intense, in years. Able support comes from the likes of Brian O'Halloran and Ray Mancini.
The film does admittedly lose its way somewhat in the second half. The interaction between Frank and Crystal is rather implausible, which is a shame given that the opening hour has set the scene so meticulously. Still, things are recovered come the unexpected final act.
And there's another big thing going in BAD FRANK's favour: writer-director Tony Germinario's propensity for eschewing expectations at most turns. Although on paper BAD FRANK flirts in a big way with cliche - you'd be forgiven for anticipating yet another TAKEN rip-off - the calibre of the script (aided by contributions from Interdonato and Russo) dictates that nothing is ever that cut-and-dried.
Perhaps I'd have liked Frank to be a little worse. Don't get me wrong, he does some dastardly deeds indeed - and we're given the distinct impression that he was even naughtier in a previous life. But, as great as Interdonato is in the role, I couldn't shake the feeling that his temperament is a little too schizophrenic. He is, for the most part, a perfectly reasonable, good guy. But perhaps that's a deliberate ploy to make the downbeat ending all the more shocking...?
BAD FRANK was a pleasant surprise, and it's one that comes recommended. It looks fabulous - sharp, beautifully framed 2.35:1 photography - and is superbly acted throughout. The writing is generally above par (that aforementioned relationship between Frank and Crystal notwithstanding) and Sizemore gets to chew scenery as the nervous bad guy: always a pleasure to witness. Don't go into this expecting the high-octane action thriller it appears to have been marketed as; it's a more satisfying slow-burner, a dark thriller with moments of grim absurdity which recall the noirish qualities of the Coen Brothers' BLOOD SIMPLE.
The film is currently available to view on demand through i-Tunes.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Directed by Tony Germinario|