The Passage (1979)


(director/writer: Daniel Casey-Vanhout; cinematographers: Mark T. Elliott/Richard Ferrando/Daniel Casey-Vanhout; editor: Daniel Casey-Vanhout; music: Hush/Scott Sumner/Nick Raftis; cast: Greg Dow (Andrew Hill), Bob Young (Guy Delmorte), Brian Altman (Seth Bridges), Alexis Nemeth (Sarah), Chris Moller (The Big Man), Dave Cunningham (Detective Talbott), Desdemona Noble (Jenny), Alex Safi (Detective Prescott), Hush (Jason Kingsly), Danny Ray Cook (Will Cook), Gerrie Casey (Woman Next Door); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Daniel Casey-Vanhout/Sean Altman; Cannon Fodder Productions; 2003)
“A no-nonsense take on the criminal element.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Daniel Casey-Vanhout’s hard-edged crime caper The Passage was winner of the Best Film Audience Award at the Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma. This low-budget indie was shot on hand-held Canon and Sony digital cameras in and around the city of Detroit, Michigan, in late 2001 and wrapped in 2002. For such a small film and one filled with mucho gunplay, it surprisingly has something pressing to say about justice and street crime that matters. Its anti-hero is a flawed young man, who is faced with a Faustian offer he accepts when he’s not thinking too clearly because he’s emotionally overwrought. Small-time crook Andrew Hill (Greg Dow) is devastated that his fiancée Jenny was needlessly gunned down by a trigger-happy shooter in the armed robbery of the Detroit diner where she worked as a waitress. The police have no leads, and it’s implied they are not trying too hard to find the killer because the vic is white trash from Detroit and the boyfriend is on probation.

As four months go by without a lead, Andy has reformed but still can’t get Jenny out of his mind. At the police station, he said if he had a gun and was alone with the killer he would take care of him. Sure enough, this opportunity comes his way when a grey-haired middle-aged stranger named Guy (Bob Young) enters his apartment and says he knows who killed his lady and offers him a chance at revenge if he participates in a robbery.

The underworld figure Guy confidently masterminds a robbery of a shady company executive holding in his home a huge sum of gambling debt money. Guy fills in his other recruit, the young career criminal Seth (Brian Altman), on how they will enter the executive’s house while he’s out and take the money before he returns.

What Andy never figured on was what a violent ride he was in for, as he stands watch outside while the other two enter the executive’s Royal Oak suburban house and without hesitation Guy guns down three family members and takes the executive’s daughter (Alexis Nemeth) as a hostage.

Rap artist Hush sings Adrenaline and the pulse of the movie keeps moving at a frenetic pace. The scene shifts back to an auto-shop warehouse where Andy realizes he’s in over his head and there’s no way out, as his hostage appeals to his sense of humanity that all her family members killed were real people.

It all leads to a final shootout in the warehouse among all the unsavory characters (shot in a pretentious arty slo-mo style, where some die a number of times before they make their final speech). Andy has to now contemplate if his biblical ‘eye for an eye’ yearnings for revenge still makes much sense.

But for a few flaws in making the storytelling a bit too philosophically drawn out for such low-level criminals to be entirely believable, the film hangs together fairly well as a thriller. Bob Young is a real find as the ruthless gang leader, as his icy performance makes it all seem frighteningly palpable. It’s a no-nonsense take on the criminal element, one worth keeping an eye out for if it ever gets a theater release.