YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Movie review: 'Cost of a Soul'

In Sean Kirkpatrick's gritty 'Cost of a Soul,' two soldiers return from war in Iraq to their dangerous Philadelphia neighborhood.

May 20, 2011|By Gary Goldstein, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Darren Davis (Will Blagrove, left) returns from the Iraq war to his troubled Philadelphia neighborhood and problems with his family, including drug-dealing brother Darnell (Nakia Dillard), in Sean Kirkpatrick's "Cost of a Soul."
Darren Davis (Will Blagrove, left) returns from the Iraq war to his troubled… (Cast Shadow Productions )

It's not hard to understand why writer-director-producer Sean Kirkpatrick's gritty and stylish "Cost of a Soul" won an AMC Theatres distribution deal via a competition called The Big Break Movie Contest, which honors independent filmmaking and helps uncover new talent.

Kirkpatrick's debut feature, made on a shoestring budget under clearly less-than-glamorous circumstances, deftly pares down a potentially epic urban crime drama into a workably tight, tense and socially conscious vision.

But as strong as Kirkpatrick's physical and visual resourcefulness proves here, his film is often undercut by an airless, relentlessly grim quality and a script frequently bereft of nuance. In telling his anxious story of wounded Iraq war veterans Tommy (Chris Kerson) and Darren (Will Blagrove), who return home only to face inescapable violence in their crime-infested, racially divided north Philadelphia neighborhood, Kirkpatrick relies on broad characterizations that, while undeniably rooted in reality, pale in comparison to the movie's loftier ambitions.

Still, the Philly-born filmmaker manages a number of vivid moments between Tommy and Darren and their respective families, the complex dynamics of which force the ex-soldiers into intersecting turf battles perhaps as dangerous as any they fought "over there."

For Tommy, family issues involve reconnecting with an embittered, mob-indebted wife (Judy Jerome) and disabled young daughter (Maddie M. Jones), while Darren must quell his fragile mother's (Diane Johnson) well-founded fear that the lives of her sons — who also include drug kingpin Darnell (Nakia Dillard) and the impressionable, younger James (Daveed Ramsay) — perpetually hang in the balance.

A somewhat operatic, decidedly tragic third act builds impressive momentum, leaving us to wonder what Kirkpatrick will accomplish his next time in the director's chair. Hopefully, he'll have a more wholly effective screenplay to guide him.

Los Angeles Times Articles