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The Channel (2023) Review

Somewhere in New Orleans’ Irish Channel, The Channel to its residents, Jamie (Clayne Crawford, The Donner Party, Spectral) wakes up from nightmares about his time in Afghanistan and gives his baby girl to her grandmother before hopping into a van like any other man heading off to work. And he is on his way to work, but the job site is a bank that he, his brother Mic (Max Martini, The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre, Pacific Rim), and several other ex-Marine buddies are about to rob.

It should be easy for a well-disciplined and heavily armed group of men. Get in, beat the vault code out of the manager, grab the cash and get out before anyone can react. Instead, the cops are waiting for them when they leave the building. The ensuing shootout leaves cops and robbers dead and the brothers on the run with over a million dollars in cash. That’s when their problems really begin.

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William Kaufman (Warhorse One, Daylight’s End) who directed The Channel as well as co-writing it with Paul Reichelt breaks from the usual heist movie formula by skipping the usual planning stage and jumping right into the robbery. On the one hand, that means within the first few minutes, the viewer is in the midst of a major shootout and car chase. On the other, it means there’s no time to get to know the characters, let alone find a reason to care about them, especially once they start leaving a trail of corpses in their wake.

Once things slow down a bit, we do learn about the brothers, and how different they and their motivations are. That’s not to say The Channel is some kind of character study, but there is a fair amount of depth and family drama worked into the plot.

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Some of it is cliché, Jamie was involved to get money for an operation for his daughter, while Mic is a psychopath who’s become addicted to violence. Jamie’s girlfriend Ava (Juliene Joyner, Unhinged, Werewolf by Night) is caught between her loyalty to him, her hatred of his brother, and her desire to grab their daughter and flee. Nothing we haven’t seen before.

On the other side, FBI Special Agent Frank Ross (Nicoye Banks, The Gods 2: The Dark Side, Soul City) and his men, Agents Nicotra (Jaren Mitchell, The Domestics, Night Teeth), and Hayes (E.K. Spila, Ghost of Goodnight Lane, Jarhead 3: The Siege) are in relentless pursuit. And, they have their own problems, almost as soon as he’s reached the crime scene we hear a voicemail berating Ross for letting his work come before his wife.

Rounding the factions out is gangster Nussy (Lucky Johnson, 2 Guns, Ghost Shark) and his mob, who the brothers get involved with in an attempt to launder the money from the robbery when the kind of heat that comes with six dead cops becomes too much for their original connection.

This all boils down to a bloody, and at times brutal, final act that involves not just guns and knives but hydrochloric acid.

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For an indie film shot on a budget, The Channel manages to pack in a surprising amount of convincingly staged action. And it’s not the usual CGI gunfire that doesn’t leave any traces either, there’s an astounding amount of shattered glass and bullet holes, not to mention a burning vehicle that certainly looked like the real thing. And the stunt crew deserves a lot of credit for making it all look authentic.

The big surprise though is how well Kaufman and Paul Reichelt work the themes of family and loyalty across various levels and relationships into the story, rather than making it feel grafted on. The Channel is the kind of film that deserves to have been picked up by a company like Lionsgate and given the theatrical/digital/hard copy release they give the half-assed thrillers they seem to specialize in these days.

The Channel is available on Digital Platforms via Brainstorm Media.

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