Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Aftermath: Contractors Doing What They Do

Tom Fiorini deals with contractors all day, so he can’t be a shrinking violet. The housing magnate has done very well for himself, but he is about to lose everything. We know, because he tells us in media res. It all started with a bit of workplace trash talking. Labor relations hit an all-time low in Thomas Farone’s gritty thriller Aftermath (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Fiorini is a cold and unreasonably demanding boss. We know, because his foreman tells us so. Still, everyone on his construction site stays, because work is heard to find in upstate New York, especially for an ex-con like Tony Bricker.  Bricker is a sub-contracting framer, not a mason. Initially, he up-manages Fiorini fairly well. It is the foreman he has issues with—so much so, he takes a swing at him right in front of Fiorini. When said foreman mysteriously disappears shortly thereafter, suspicion naturally falls on Bricker.

Assuming the worst, Fiorini sacks Bricker. Words get heated, threats are made, and circumstances quickly escalate. The two detective working the missing person case are not much help, but at least the sheriff is on Fiorini’s side. In fact, the old lawman is much more effective than the dodgy muscle Fiorini hires to intimidate Bricker. Frankly, they only make matters worse.

Clearly, this film has been kicking around for a while, since it is billed as the final film of Chris Penn, who died in early 2006. Penn was always a reliable character actor and his work as Bricker is consistently forceful. However, one cannot help wondering if his unfortunate passing partly explains why the third act is considerably patchier than the hour or so that comes before it.

Aftermath is also notable as part of Anthony Michael Hall’s more successful-than-you-realize career reinvention. The kid best known for wearing panties on his head in John Hughes movies is now a rather credible hardnose. Roles like Fiorini and Jack, Du Pont’s troubleshooter in the disappointing Oscar contender Foxcatcher should solidify his professional evolution. Hey, this is America, anything can happen here.

In a case of stunt-casting gone bizarrely right, Tony Danza chews the scenery quite entertainingly as King, an off-the-books gun dealer and freelance fixer. However, Leo Burmester upstages everyone as the cantankerous sheriff. On the other hand, Law & Order alumnus Elisabeth Röhm is wastefully underutilized as Fiorini’s largely disinterested and uninteresting wife, Rebecca.

Aftermath is definitely aiming for a dark, Blood Simple-A Simple Plan vibe, but it ends on a note so pitch black, it is a real buzz kill. Again, you have to wonder if that was the original plan or a salvageable solution. Still, for those who enjoy indie thrillers inspired by the likes of the Cohen Brothers and Tarantino, it is worth checking out just to watch Penn, Burmester, Hall, and Danza playing off each other. Recommended accordingly for jaded viewers, Aftermath opens this Friday (11/28) in New York, at the Quad Cinema.