Saturday, November 19, 2011

BOY WONDER, Michael Morrissey's mixed bag, is available now via VOD and DVD

Responsibility for the interesting but flawed film BOY WONDER most definitely lies with its writer/director/
producer Michael Morrissey. In this, his first foray into writing and directing (he's acted as producer on a number of house-and/or-home-related TV series), Morrissey (shown below) cleverly conflates a few different genres, from neo-noir and vigilante thriller to women-in-jeopardy and the more recent, would-be super-hero film. His questionable "hero," Sean Donovan, long ago saw his mother murdered during a car-jacking gone wrong, and he's never forgiven the murderer -- nor himself. But hey, he was only a kid at the time.

Older now (he appears to be one of those typical "elderly" high school students we so often see in the movies), Sean (played by Caleb Steinmeyer, below) is determined to protect abused women everywhere (in the Brooklyn area, at least), and so here he is saving the ladies and killing the guys. His modus operandi is a bit strange, however: He first interferes, allows himself to be beaten up, and then pulls knife or gun and gets down to the real work at hand. From a psychological standpoint of guilt and self-punishment, this makes some sense, and if the first part of the film were not so full of questionable moments, it would be easier to go along with it all. But little (and not so) things begin to rankle.

First there's the quite unbelievable conversation that Detective Ames (Zulay Henaobelow, right) has with an arch villain named Larry Childs (James Russo) -- right in the middle of a courtroom. Later Ames finds Sean alone in the police station at night and appears to accept everything he says at face value. And, boy, is Sean ever privy to an awful lot of woman/child abuse. Literally everywhere he looks, something bad is going on. Plus, some of the villains seem a bit more attuned to reality than is Sean: "You didn't save her; you made it worse," one of them tells the kid. Most damaging of all is the fact that we have a hero who's a one-note whack job, and would, in any real world, long ago have been committed to a hospital.

But then small parcels of further information get dropped in our laps, and as we learn more about the situation, it deepens and begins to interest us. Sean's dad, for instance, is not (or at least was not always) the fine, loving father we initially see. And what's with that odd chemical compound the kid's been looking up on the internet? Coincidences abound, and soon it begins to look like everything is connected. The ending moves from shocking to delicious to ironic and darkly funny.

Should you stick things out, you'll probably be glad you did, for that finale is indeed crackerjack. If you give up halfway along, however, no one would blame you, for the movie, finally, falls somewhere between the near-rave, three-and-one-half stars that Roger Ebert gave it, and the deadly pan that The New York Times reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis handed out.

Boy Wonder, from Inception Media Group, hit the streets this past November 8 on DVD, and has been available via VOD since late October. Further good news: Netflix starts renting it out this Tuesday, November 22.

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