“Every town is built on bad decisions,” Kerrigan (Judson Mills, Cold Blooded Killers, Walker: Texas Rangers) says at the beginning of Downeast. “And I built this town, brick by brick.”. He’s the local mob boss, in charge of running heroin from the small Maine seaport to Boston’s North End. He’s happy to be a big fish in a small pond. But as he says, “There’s always a bigger fish.”
Tommy (Greg Finley, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Hypothermia) used to be a boxer. Now he works on his father George’s (Gareth Williams, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight, Mindhunter) fishing boat and avoids his Uncle Billy’s (Dennis Cockrum, Gangster Squad) efforts to recruit him into the mob.
Things become complicated when Emma (Dylan Silver, Senior Cut Day: The Movie) returns to town and begins asking too many questions about the death of her brother, and Tommy’s close friend, Mikey (Spencer Watson, Itsy Bitsy, The Obituary of Tunde Johnson) several years before. Tommy was among those who saw and heard nothing that night and his part in it weighs heavy on his conscience.
As Tommy and Emma begin to act on the feelings they’ve always had for each other, her questions about her brother begin to put him in a dangerous place and at a very bad time. There’s a very important shipment that needs to be moved, and the pressure is on George, who like Tommy has stayed clean, to agree to move it. Kerrigan is growing frustrated with Billy’s inability to get George to see reason.
In Downeast, actor (Portal, Hunting Lands) turned director (6 Degrees of Hell, Dark Harbor) Joe Raffa and co-writer/star Greg Finley tell a story of the kind of organized crime that makes the local news, not national headlines. The kind that many of us can, in one way or another, relate to. That in turn, gives Downeast a more realistic feel.
Raffa and Finley do an excellent job of depicting the web of connections between family, friends, dealers, addicts, bosses and soldiers involved in all of this. That’s what Downeast is primarily about, it’s a crime drama, not an action film or a thriller, something to keep in mind going into it. Don’t expect much in the way of car chases or epic shootouts. What little violence there is in the film is simple, nasty and realistic.
What you can expect from Downeast is excellent performances from the cast. Finley especially as a man being caught in the middle of a bad situation. He knows he should take a stand, but he also remembers what happened the last time he did. Silver, with whom he has excellent chemistry, also gives a great performance as a woman looking for answers and finding out much more than she wanted to know. And, as Kerrigan’s enforcer Brennan, Joss Glennie-Smith (Gingerdead Man vs Evil Bong, Ford v Ferrari) is intimidating and repellent in equal measures.
The film’s final act and the ending is a bit problematic for me. While it does build to a tense climax, and the ultimate resolution makes sense it feels a bit more Hollywood than I expected it to be. Granted it’s more exciting than Out of Death, but that wasn’t where I expected it to go. As much as I enjoyed it, it felt a bit disappointing.
After a festival run that included winning Best Director and Best Actor at Worldfest Houston and Best Film and Best Director and Best Actor at the Montreal Independent Film Festival, Gravitas Ventures will release Downeast to digital and cable VOD services on July 13th. You can check their Facebook page, or the film’s for more details.