My friend and fellow blogger, Michael, is an independent film fanatic. He lives and breaths it. Just go to his site, Inner Circle, and you’ll see what I mean.
As a collector, Michael enjoys the tangible DVD. His pursuit of them could be described as dogged–but not to him. To him it’s a treasure hunt in which he scours bargain bins, roams thrift shops and frequents swap meets. He even reaches out to production companies.
Consequently, Michael knows a lot of actors and directors within the indie film community. He interviews them frequently on his blog.
For Michael, mainstream cinema has lost its sheen; there is too much glitter and not enough patina.
I was thinking of Michael the other night, when I was perusing my many apps, channels and services, looking through–literally–thousands of movie titles for something, anything, to watch. Its funny how often I can’t find something that appeals to me. So many good films that I haven’t seen, but that I no longer feel the desire or obligation to do so.
Probably why I’ve seen so little Asian noir. The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, Memories of Murder and Man From Reno are about it.
Anyway, I ran across Super Dark Times, (2017) a great little independent teen, psychological horror film, that put me in this indie thread. I started going through them. I’d watch about five, maybe ten minutes and then bail out because of the acting, or the script.
So I’d blown through–probably– five films when I came across Delinquent (2016). It’s a crime drama in the vein of James Foley’s haunting 1986 noir, At Close Range, starring Sean Penn back in the day when he was married to Madonna.
Delinquent starts out with the lead, seventeen year old, Joey, (Alex Shaffer) speaking directly to the camera, which films from the perspective of his girlfriend, Allyson (Zoe Van Tieghem). Joey oozes teenage male bravado. More cute than dangerous, he is aware of his charm.
The camera is aware of it too. We see him as Allyson does.
When the camera catches her she is cool and aloof. They share an easy intimacy.
Then–boom!–out of nowhere, a burley jock type runs up on them and steals Joey. Joey fights back and we see that he is not all swagger. He unleashes an unexpected burst of violence on the dude before he is hauled off to the principal’s office where he slips back into his charming rouge persona. She is not fooled by him, but she likes him. She warns him that he is headed for trouble–probably sooner rather than later–that he won’t be able to talk his way out of.
From there the camera follows Joey as he cruises around his small New England home town, meandering slowly–90s style hip hop blasting–toward the house where he resides with his father and his two pre-teen sisters. There it is obvious that Joey is more caretaker of his sisters than his father is. The house is messy, not dirty. It is devoid of a feminine touch.
It’s also obvious that Joey’s father, Rich (Bill Sage) is a low level crook of some sort, albeit a handsome one. He leads a trio of small time thieves. Joey is eager to join the gang.
The trio plans the robbery of some rare coins from a local antique store, which happens to be owned by the parents of Joey’s former best friend. The trio lets Joey in on the job where he has the entry level position of lookout.
Predictably, the robbery goes wrong. The owner shows up, runs into Joey and recognizes him. Joey’s cousin and the badass of the group, beats the owner to death with a flashlight. The trio swear each other, and the scared shitless Joey to secrecy. They get rid of the body.
But Joey’s conscience eats away at him, especially when he and his childhood best friend, Brandon (Sam Dillon, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) reignite their relationship and when, Tara (Erin Darke) a co-conspirator, is suspected by Rich and the others of being too soft.
Director, Kieran Valla, sets this tinderbox of Joey’s self inflicted wounds and unfortunate circumstances ablaze in his refreshingly realistic, small town drama. And while the premise is nothing new, Delinquent is an exceptionally solid, gorgeously acted film.
As Joey, Alex Shaffer, weaves a deft portrait of a streetwise teen who has lived beyond his years, but still embodies a youthful resilience that only naivete can fuel. It is a brilliant performance.
Likewise, character actor, Bill Sage’s (I know him as Howard in Hap & Leonard) acting chops illuminates the tarnished soul of criminal father, while Kevin Bigley and David Fierro as henchmen, Britt and Keegan, turn in their own muscular performances.
Cinematographer, Daniel Marks, captures the comfortably numb doldrums of Valla’s own rural Connecticut hometown, Litchfield (pop. 8,466) where he shot Delinquent out of financial necessity. Marks and Valla turn liability into homecourt advantage as the town closed down streets for free and provided uniformed police officers and firefighters as extras. This unexpected edge provides a stark, but poetic authenticity to setting that so many similar films lack.