Directed Brian A. Metcalf.
Starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Mickey Rourke, Penelope Ann Miller, Lou Diamond Phillips, Sean Astin, Kelly Arjen, Matt Ryan, Andrew Keegan, Luke Edwards, Kate Kurtzman and Brian A. Metcalf.
Ethan (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a taxi driver trying to make ends meet in Los Angeles. His sister Mia falls in with the wrong people, which soon brings Kaden (Mickey Rourke) into play. As events begin to take a downward turn in their lives, this gritty character piece morphs into something more terrifying.
This lo-fi crime thriller from indie filmmaker Brian A. Metcalf is a slow burn character piece, that benefits from stripped back visual aesthetics. Featuring a ragged performance from Thomas Ian Nicholas as Ethan, Adverse takes time to gain momentum. This Los Angeles is impoverished, desperate and grounded by a sense of reality that imbues the city with a pulse. Characters in this cinematic microcosm, are isolated from the traditionally affluent image that Hollywood puts on screen.
Ethan and his sister Mia, Kelly Arjen, are defined by tragedy. Resentment exists on both sides and speaks to an inherent disconnect between two people divided by grief. Mia seeks solace in a surrogate family circle of miscreants, which lead her down the road of bad choices. Having established this character dynamic early on, writer director Brian A. Metcalf then deploys his trump card in the form of Mickey Rourke.
Although the introduction of this lumbering latter day legend feels relatively innocuous, his insidious influence is something which infiltrates from the onset. There is no escaping the loss of potential which is reflected through this performance, as Kaden hints at a life orchestrated by bad choices. Burgeoning promise, raw talent and a temperament to match all tie into his portrayal of an ailing man. Sartorial elegance cloaks a multitude of internal struggles, which emerge through glimpses between the sun glasses that barely hide his self loathing.
Although the structure of this visceral thriller sticks to conventional avenues, Adverse comes alive in its final thirty minutes. As circumstances begin to escalate and reconciliation turns to revenge, audiences will feel those gloves come off. Ethan is slowly backed into a corner as the realisation of his situation becomes apparent. Surrounded by those who would rather see him dead, this would-be Uber driver becomes an unlikely agent of vengeance.
Adverse succeeds in no small measure because of this gear change, which propels audiences towards a harrowing conclusion. Stand outs beyond Mickey Rourke include underrated Welsh actor Matt Ryan, who rose to prominence as Constantine. There is real venom behind the characterisation of Jake, which stands toe to toe with Kaden in terms of screen presence. Lou Diamond Phillips and Penelope Ann Miller are also worthy as note in little more than extended cameos, that prove pivotal and add value. In a film which feels quite fragmentary at times, having solid turns from such an eclectic cast goes some way to keeping things coherent.
Stylistically it feels reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Collateral, as Los Angeles comes alive under the watchful eye of cinematographer Derrick Cohan. Derelict buildings, stark industrial interiors and an unflinching depiction of LA life outside of Hollywood are all brought home. Combined with visual and verbal economy, which veers away from excessive exposition, Adverse packs quite the punch.
Adverse is available to stream through Amazon in the US and will headline the Ramsgate International Film Festival ahead of a UK release.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★