90 FEET FROM HOME
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to B22 Films and Writer/Director, Brett Bentman (Apocalypse Road and Kreep) for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest feature film “90 Feet From Home”. 90 Feet From Home is a hard-hitting drama about a fractured family. Scott Conway (played by Adam Hampton), a troubled ex-pro ball player, returns home to face his estranged older brother Tommy (Thom Hallum) and their abusive stepfather James Devine (played by pro-wrestler Shawn Michaels). The film also stars Eric Roberts (The Human Centipede 3), Steven Michael Quezada (TV’S Breaking Bad), Dean Cain (God’s Not Dead), Laura Menzie, and Heather Williams.
Jersey-born Bentman, now a Texas-based filmmaker, initially began writing and directing short films back in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 and the release of his impressive directorial feature-length debut “Apocalypse Road” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/apocalypse-road-review/ that I began following his work. Since that initial venture into the post-apocalyptic wasteland, Brett has made two more feature films. The intimate and controlled crime/drama film “Kreep” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/kreep-review-2/ and a home invasion-style horror flick called “The Night Before” https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-night-before-review-2/. One of the most beneficial traits Bentman seems to possess is his broad turn of mind regarding branching out. 90 Feet From Home is further evidence of that.
90 Feet From Home is a well-conceived and simple story about the inevitable ramifications of domestic violence. This small-town Texas setting gives the story an appropriately intimate physicality. DP, Anthony Gutierrez employs simple framing and nice shot choices to help best display character-driven drama. One such discernible moment comes in the form of a clever upshot where Scott is looking down on his stepfather, it speaks volumes by clearly signaling a change in the dynamics of that power struggle. The audio track is clean, and the understated orchestral and synth score manages to filter through without ever feeling like it’s emotionally manipulating the viewer. A few familiar faces appear in 90 Feet From Home so it’s clear Bentman has a great rapport with his actors.
All the performances are consistently good, and that’s quite rare for an independent drama. Both leads bring different properties to their respective characters and they carry themselves well, in particular, Hallum. Actor, Jaren Lewison (who more than passes for a younger Hallum) might just be the best casting decision, playing the role of teenage Tommy in the first act. Hampton’s characters younger counterpart is played by Chase Pollock (who also turns in a nice performance), though I think the two do look significantly different (I pictured someone more like Kevin Makely). Menzie plays Tommy’s wife Margaret, who’s sort of the grounded and level-headed one despite being kept at arm’s length regarding the Conway family history. Heather Williams handles her emotional moments the strongest of anyone in the film and she plays a character that many will identify with. The surprise packet in 90 Feet From Home is certainly D-Generation X alumni (for those wrestling fans out there haha) Shawn Michaels. A raspy, tired and torn Michaels consciously remains self-contained throughout his depiction of the Conway brothers brutish, mean, and alcoholic stepfather. His customary turn to god just further highlights the notion that religion can serve as a convenient vehicle for vindication – I hate that. Experienced heads in Roberts, Cain, and Quezada round out the cast and deliver a memorable moment or two during their short amount of screen time.
At a touch over two hours, 90 Feet From Home does feel rather long for an independent film. That’s not to say there’s necessarily much content here that needed scrapping, perhaps just tightening somewhat. If I’m being nitpicky, the interior location used to double for the police station didn’t look entirely credible. A couple of the flatter interactions may have been better off being swapped out for some much-needed baseball content. The closest thing we get to any ball playing is James vehemently swinging a bat at an unsuspecting Scott. Now that wouldn’t be so much of a problem if there weren’t a number of mentions of baseball and that fact that Scott made pro. The inclusion of at least one actual game so the scouts could view him would’ve definitely been wise. It’s also problematic that there’s barely a reaction when Conway returns home (despite having made it to the big time no one in this small town seems to care). The timeline jumping forward fifteen years was always going to make it difficult to age the characters accordingly. Michael’s would’ve benefited from growing his beard out a lot more for the latter part of the film, and Hampton could’ve better resembled an older Chase Pollock if he had of gone for the completely clean-shaven look instead.
90 Feet From Home is a surprisingly heavy hitting character piece that sees Bentman spread his wings once again. With elements from films like “Shotgun Stories” and even Gavin O’Connor’s stellar 2011 film “Warrior”, this one tackles an all too familiar shade of violence. The cinematography is solid, the audio crisp, and the score fittingly somber. Aspects of the casting are superb and the performances are really good right across the board. Hallum is wonderful given his limited experience, Hampton wears the anti-hero badge with pride, and both Laura and Heather drive the emotional punch. Michael’s is restrained but wholly effective in his depiction of an incredibly small-minded man. This type of film is so difficult to get made and rarely do they get it right. If you want something with a little more substance I can safely recommend 90 Feet From Home. You can check out the trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!
My rating for “90 Feet From Home” is 7/10