Saturday, January 28, 2006

Steel City

2006 Sundance Film Festival
★ ★ ★
Steel City is one of those low-budget movies that makes for satisfying Sundance fare despite lacking the necessary ingredients for broader box-office success. It’s the story of a dysfunctional family in a small town in Illinois, centering around 20-year-old PJ (Tom Guiry), who is trying to hold his life together as his father goes to prison for his role in a fatal car accident. PJ is angry, bitter and confused. He can’t hold a job or his temper. He resents his older brother Ben (Clayne Clawford), whose life is also unraveling from alcohol, selfishness and philandering. He’s alienated from his mother, who has moved in with a black cop and his son. And he tries desperately to be supportive to his father (John Heard), for reasons that gradually emerge in the movie. Finally he is connected to his Uncle Vic (Raymond J. Barry), who helps him get a job and attempts to mentor him.

All this may sound vaguely familiar, but director Brian Jun manages to develop the characters with honesty and compassion. By the end of the movie each character has worked out his redemption, and in the process created bonds of love and concern within the family.

These Steel City characters feel like real people. The writing is crisp, hard and direct. The casting is terrific and each performance believable. This family will grown on you, and you will find yourself rooting for them to do well, to make good decisions, and to find happiness.


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