Wednesday, May 27, 2009

DVD Views: What Doesn't Kill You

What Doesn’t Kill You *** (2008)
Directed by: Brian Goodman
Written By: Brian Goodman & Paul T. Murray & Donnie Wahlberg.
Starring: Mark Ruffalo (Brian), Ethan Hawke (Paulie), Amanda Peet (Stacy), Brian Goodman (Boss), Angela Featherstone (Katie), Kelly Holleman (Kathleen), Edward Lynch (Jackie), Donnie Wahlberg (Detective Moran).

Some films you know are intensely personal to their makers. What Doesn’t Kill You is a film like that. Written and directed by Brian Goodman, he tells his own story of life on the streets of Boston, where he decides to turn to a life of petty crime as well as alcohol and drug abuse, until he finds turns his life around. It is an inspiring story, and the movie that he has made about it is quite good.

The movie opens with Brian (Mark Ruffalo) and Paulie (Ethan Hawke) working for a low level mob connected guy (played by Brian Goodman himself) in South Boston. They do small jobs, for little money, and are always on the lookout for a big score. Brian has a wife (Amanda Peet) and two kids who depend on him, and he’s not a dependable guy. He stays out to all hours of the night partying, drinking and doing drugs with his friends. When a job goes wrong, Brian and Paulie end up in jail for 5 years. When they get out they have different ideas of what to do.

The movie is obviously inspired by Martin Scorsese, particularly Mean Streets, which has become one of the most influential films of all time. It’s look at the world of low level crime feels authentic, and Goodman is a smart enough filmmaker to not try and do too much in his first film. He has a simple, straightforward shooting style that is effective to his film. His biggest asset are the performances by the two leads. Mark Ruffalo has a nice everyman quality, and a natural likeability, which means no matter what Brian does, we still like him. Hawke is more manic, more irresponsible. He is a like a big kid, whose actions you can never quite predict. His relationship with Brian maybe the only thing for keeping him going off the deep end.

What Doesn’t Kill You doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but it is a solid movie. It is a good film, with superior performances, and you can tell that it means something to the filmmaker. Most films are made solely to make money. This one feels like the director had to make it, if for no other reason, than to keep him from going back to what he used to know all too well.

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