(director/writer: Ryan M. Kennedy; cinematographer: Nicolas Canton; editors: Nina S. Matter/Richie Williamson; music: Spyros Poulos; cast: Russ Russo (Jacob Nicks), Natasha Alam (Ivana), Doug E. Doug (Marlon), Joseph R. Gannascoli (Frank), Kiowa Gordon (Private LockLear), Stan Carp (Tito), Zahir Zahrieh (Waiter), Matthew D’Olimpio (Ivana’s date), Robert Miano (Sully), Dominik Tiefenthaler (Detective Tom Nicks), Chris LaPanta (Lt. Sullivan); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Atit Shah; Kickstarter; 2014)

“The hard-hitting tale of human carnage hits too close to home in the contemporary scene to be dismissed without provoking some thought about how we treat our soldiers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Ryan M. Kennedy in his maiden directorial effort goes the Scorsese “Taxi” (1976) route with this challenging but grim low-budget indie tale, shot on a digital camera called the Arri Alexa. It paints a gloomy portrait of a messed up war hero soldier returning to civilian life with insomnia anda bad case of untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, after being tortured as a POW for eight months. Depressed good guy Jacob Nicks (Russ Russo) is a loner who lives in a cramped tiny apartment, that’s filled with movie equipment, in a poor Brooklyn neighborhood. Jacob works at a dead-end job as a movie projectionist in a dumpy local movie house. The gaunt young man is relentlessly haunted by his army days and walks around at night like a zombie. That he receives no assistance for his serious ailments by the government he served during wartime, tells you all you have to know about how the government values its soldiers.

The always brooding Jacob relieves his misery by visits to the hard-assedRussian-born prostitute Ivana (Natasha Alam), whogives him ‘sympathy lays’ while openly treating him with contempt as a loser.But dumps him over a few incidents that violate her privacy.

In an empty diner, open late at night, the grave-shift worker Jacob meets a polite talking homeless black man named Marlon (Doug E. Doug), who after treated generously to free coffee and a meal by the projectionist turns the vulnerable guy onto heroin and he soon becomes addicted.

The alienated Jacob goes on a steeper decline as his addiction makes it not possible to function at work, and his unsympathetic movie house boss (Joseph R. Gannascoli) cans him.

In his ongoing self-destruction, the former soldier can’t adjust to civilian life and gets trapped in a world of illusion, misery, addiction and violence, and can’t stop his free fall. The soldier feels he can only come out of his shell by himself and does so in an unhealthy way when he sees himself as a man with nothing to lose and also nothing to live for.

The noir-like black and white cinematography (except for the beginning and ending), the frightening dark night shots of a seedy deserted neighborhood and the winning heart-breaking performance by Russ Russo make this sad melodrama watchable despite that it’s not for everyone because of its unpleasant subject matter. The hard-hitting tale of human carnage hits too close to home in the contemporary scene to be dismissed without provoking some thought about how we treat our soldiers and how inhumane is out treatment of the mentally ill.