Monday, July 25, 2011

Maya Indie: Forged

Jesus “Chuco” Barrera has committed all kinds of thuggish felonies. Yet, it was an unplanned crime of passion that sent him up the river. It also devastated the life of his son Machito in William Wedig’s Forged (trailer here), which screens for a week in New York as part of the traveling Maya Indie Film Series.

It a fit of possibly substance-heightened jealous rage, Barrera shot his wife, in the face, at point blank range, in front of his young son. Barrera got manslaughter, Machito got a foster home. The kid probably had it worse. By the time Barrera is released on good behavior, his son is homeless and dead set on revenge.

Though their reunion is not what one would call heartwarming, Barrera tries to clean him up and find livable shelter for the boy. However, there is no easy sentiment in Forged, let alone instant forgiveness. Yet perhaps the fifty G’s in drug money he is carrying back to Cesar, his not so ex-crime boss, can help set up his son in a new life. Of course, walking away with mob money always leads to complications.

There is no question Manny Perez has breakout star potential. Though much of the same creative team from his middling but promising La Soga is again on-board here, Forged represents a big step up for Perez. Intense without undue showiness, he creates a compellingly unromaticized anti-hero in Barrera. He also has a more supportive supporting cast this time around, including a great stone cold villain in Jaime Tirelli’s Cesar, the king pin of Scranton, PA. Tony-nominated Margo Martindale also adds real flesh-and-blood dimension to the film as Barrera’s alcoholic mother.

Relatively few films are shot on-location in Scranton and it is not so hard to see why. However, it gives Forged a genuinely gritty vibe. Evan Wilson’s darkly-hued, vaguely bluesey score also helps set the ominous mood. Even the bleak washed-out color palate employed by cinematographer Zeus Morand materially contributes to the overall effect.

In Forged, what starts as tough-minded naturalism steadily evolves into high tragedy. That might not be the light summer popcorn fare some viewers are seeking, but it makes for a heck of a star vehicle for Perez (but not necessarily for depressed Scranton). One of the stronger entries of the Maya Indie Series, Forged screens at the Quad Cinema in New York, once a day for a week, starting this Friday (7/29-8/4).