3 1/2 Stars
After seeing some print ads and getting a feel for the film, Hellion reminded me of another outsider pic with a similar sounding title, Hesher. Although Hellion drops the dark comedy aspect to become a far more serious affair which has much less to do with heavy metal music. Adapted from her short film by the same name, director Kat Candler proves that indie film-makers are still willing to go to dark places very close to home. The film paces itself well, showing us the lead up to the action, rather than action begetting action as in big budget Hollywood flicks (yes, even dramas). This build up creates an interesting roller-coaster ride that derails (in a good way) in a shocking final act.
Thirteen year old Jacob’s (Josh Wiggins) life is in shambles. Ever since his mother’s death his father Hollis (Aaron Paul) has checked out, leaving Jacob to care for his younger ten year old brother Wes (Deke Garner). This leaves the two boys alone most of the day. Jacob’s increasingly delinquent behavior has caught the eye of the local police. When his younger brother joins the crew of miscreants Child Protective Services gets involved and places him in his aunt Pam’s (Juliette Lewis) charge. The breakup of the family forces Hollis to try and cleanup his ways to earn his son back. But Jacob has another idea and springs his brother with the help of his unhinged friends.
Dealing with themes such as being an outsider, misunderstood, loneliness, broken families and brotherhood bonds Hellion is a true down to earth drama many will relate to. The acting is top notch, especially from the kids. Aaron Paul seems to be channeling a Christian Bale indie performance, but it suits him well. The cinematography and overall dirty, grungy look and feel of the film adds to the dramatic moments. The writing is above the pay grade, setting up a world that not only supports the story, but takes us to an inevitable and jarring scene. I don’t want to ruin the moment, but you’ll know when you get to it. The scene is brilliantly played out and pays off several setups while combining many of the themes and bringing them to a singular head.
While the first half is measured, it’s necessary to pull off the dramatic ending. I’d recommend this to anyone that likes indie dramatic fare, but this may not move quickly enough for entertainment seekers only.
Director: Kat Candler
Stars: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner