Firstly, I’d just like to thank Co-writer/Director, Desmond Devenish for allowing me early access to an online screener of his debut feature-length, Crime/Drama, “Misfortune”. Misfortune is about Boyd (played by Devenish himself), a young guy whose struggling to make ends meet with his girlfriend Sloane (played by Jenna Kanell). The situation is made worse after he learns that Mallick (Kevin Gage from “Blow” and “Heat”), the man who killed his father, just made parole. Mallick falsely believes that just before partner Roman died (Nick Mancuso), he passed some rare diamonds onto his son Boyd. With some help from his pal Russell (Xander Bailey, also a Co-Writer) and girlfriend Sloane, Boyd aims to track down the diamonds and fence them before Mallick can, what ensues is a cat and mouse thriller across the arid landscape of Arizona. The film also stars Steve Earle from “The Wire”, Vinicius Machado (True Detective) and Carl Bailey.
I’ll admit, I’m partial to a good heist movie, although Misfortune isn’t a heist movie per say. The loot has already been extracted as the film’s opening frames are revealed (so I’m not spoiling anything there), instead, the film centers on what happens from that point forward. Boyd’s father has to make a call on what to do with the diamonds and more importantly, his partner Mallick. It was enjoyable seeing a couple of familiar faces in this one, most notably Gage, who I recently saw in the low-budget creature feature, “Jurassic City” see review here * https://adamthemoviegod.com/jurassic-city-review/ *. Gage’s experience is clearly on display in Devenish’s film but I was hoping he’d have more screen time, given his character is crucial to key events in the film. I initially chased up Misfortune because of young actress, Jenna Kanell. Jenna was cast as one of the two female leads in Damien Leone’s upcoming Horror film “Terrifier” (which I acted as associate producer on). She’s starting to get some great roles and therefore I wanted to chase up more of her work and see how she’s doing.
The audio track is clear and consistent, I liked the use of bass in the score too, especially during the films more suspenseful moments. I’ve been through Arizona but never to Tucson, which is where the film was shot. There’s a multitude of nice establishing shots that aid in setting the tone of the story. Desmond takes full advantage of the rural landscape, shooting majority of the film during the day and gauging the perfect amount of light for the night shots. The camera work is another facet of the film that impressed me, creatively speaking. Devenish keeps the framing distance proportionate to the actors and to my surprise, even when the action picks up, he refrains from going to the obligatory shaky cam we’re used to seeing. There’s a lot of really tight and sharp focus shots, I’m not sure what equipment was used but kudos on being able to pull off such a high production value, on what I’ll assume is a fairly modest budget.
The performances in Misfortune are solid across the board. This was my introduction to Desmond, who I must say closely resembles a young William Hurt. He wore several different hats on this project and considering it’s his first full length feature, he handles it all very well. The script starts fast and is mostly well written, Desmond’s sullen demeanor for Boyd, suits his figure. Co-Writer and Actor, Bailey, complements him nicely because Russell has a little more drive and energy compared to Boyd’s often sour attitude. Earle, Mancuso and Machado each only have a small part to play but they do what’s required of them. Bar one other female character seen briefly in the beginning, Kanell’s, “Sloane” is the only outside source in an otherwise male dominated environment. I think Jenna’s character seems to be the most layered and she does her best to present that to you, as the situation progresses from bad to worse. I wish she was given a little more to work with, additional dialogue with Boyd to help the characters grow. So in turn, the third act brings about some revelations that don’t quite hit with their intended punch.
Most of the issues I had with Misfortune surround the inner workings of the script and its details. I suppose you have to acknowledge the lack of originality here, because let’s face it, the heist/robbery premise has been done to death over the years. Stronger and more well-rounded characters were what was required to elevate Misfortune’s standing. We learn next to nothing about Boyd through his journey and I’ll be honest, he’s a difficult protagonist to want to root for, Mallick even more so to want to root against. The dynamic between Roman and Mallick could have been better built-in the opening act, so the weight of their eventual situation, displayed a bigger impact in Boyd’s life (we can only assume it did, but we don’t see evidence). The secondary characters, including Kanell’s, are only really there to round out the film and don’t offer up much.
Let’s talk about a few of the finer details, the first being when Mallick unexpectedly arrives at Boyd’s house, asking him where the diamonds are and threatening him. The first logical thought would probably be one of self-preservation, given Boyd doesn’t seem like a real tough guy. Sure, he’s doing it hard, other than his girlfriend, he’s got nothing to his name but you’d think that would be the perfect opportunity to up and leave and get yourself out of a potentially harmful plight. Boyd’s first reaction is to buy a gun (not altogether a bad idea) but then to stupidly follow that up by heading out to where his father’s body was found, just hoping to miraculously find the diamonds (if they exist) seems like you’re asking for trouble, Right? Okay, I guess I can see his got his eyes on the prize, the financial gain etc… so he grabs Russell and Sloane and heads out to the desert to look for the jewels. With no real plan in place, or any clues about where they might be, he’s just flying by the seat of his pants and just so happens to find them. In fact, you don’t even see a landmark reference, or anything obvious to allude to how he found them… now that’s a fair old stretch of plausibility.
So with each decision Boyd makes, the predictability metre rises, becoming a factor in the overall practicality of the scenario. There’s no two ways about it, Mallick’s going to hold off and wait for Boyd and Co to lead him straight to the goods, which is exactly what happens. Rational thinkers would have at least raised the possibility of crossing paths with Mallick and what to do in any given situation. Russell just so happens to cross paths with Mallick in a rest stop bathroom, good news for Mallick is Russell doesn’t know what he looks like and can’t inform Boyd of their chance meeting. I was hoping at some point there’d be a description of Mallick made known, so everybody could be on guard, especially considering they have to know he’s coming for them but alas. The trio is temporarily bogged down after some clever foresight from Mallick and they receive aid from a sheriff who happens upon them. The group is supposed to be playing it cool, so as not to draw attention to themselves because they’re armed… Well, they were the least inconspicuous people I’ve ever seen, they had guilt written all over their faces, not to mention they’re guarded and on edge during the interaction. If I was an officer of the law there’d have been questions being asked but seeing as though he’s just a small town cop, he’s not bothered.
Desmond Devenish’s, “Misfortune” is a competently made Crime/Drama flick, even if it is pretty conventional stuff. The family dynamic and relationship aspect, reminded me of an Australian movie from a few years back called “Swerve”. With three short films under his belt and now a full length feature, Devenish shows a sound knowledge for the technical aspects and is getting experience in writing as well. Both the audio track/score are prime, as well as the smart camera work and effective shot choices, which help to raise the entire production value. I liked the pacing, more so in the first half but especially in the opening act and several other key points are entertaining, including the big finish. I thought the strongest element of the film was probably the cast themselves. Gage always plays a great villain, he carries himself with a no muss, no fuss kind of attitude, Bailey bought some energy to what was a fairly plain group of characters and Jenna Kanell looks lovely and delivered a bit of heart, I just wish she had more to work with. Desmond proved to play his leading character very well, something that doesn’t often work when Writers take on their own characters, so well done. I’d be lying if I said the whole thing wasn’t a little one-dimensional and some of the plot points don’t help the films credibility but it is a movie after all. If you like the genre, I think you’ll be pretty well entertained for 90 minutes. Keep an eye out for this one in the near future.
My rating for “Misfortune” is 6/10