An unidentified time in the near past is the setting for April Mullen's latest film Badsville. The film is a tribute to 50's greaser gang culture where the worst fate a gang member would likely face is a severe beating. Wink (Ian McLaren) is the leader of the Badsville Kings who are on top for the moment in their never-ending battle with the Ace's. He has a goal of making it out of the deadened town succeeding where no other gang member has done before. He discusses it with old-timer Lucky Lou (Emilio Rivera) who remarked that no one got out from his era. He is the last one left of his crew, all of the others are dead inducing Wink's dad. Wink also has a soft spot for pre-teen Sammy (Gregory Kasyan) who has a junkie mom fed by Wink's unstable right-hand man Benny (Benjamin Barrett).
The story starts out down familiar territory that the viewer has seen before in other gangland member stories. But writers McLaren and Barrett who play the two King's leads shift course first with the powerful first appearance of Mr. Gavin (Robert Knepper) a Lucky Lou era Acer disciplining his son who was on the wrong end of a beating from Wink. The film explores difficult family, friendship and economic issues for a group of people in a space seeming destined to repeat the same rivalries, living and loving patterns one generation after the other.
Wink finds a solid reason to get out after meeting Suzy (Tamara Duarte) who makes him feel better when she's around for the first time since forever. Suzy is in town visiting her cousin Helen (Chelsea Rendon) escaping a serious situation of her own back home. But he has to balance his wishes with his loyalty to the Kings which is put to the ultimate test by a situation engineered by Benny.
AJ Gallardo's original music fills the spaces between the dialogue giving a dusty tinge to the town's settings as the Kings drink whiskey in between fights or drags of a cigarette. McLaren's and Barrett's complicated relationship as Wink and Benny is at the centre of the piece. They have known each other forever but are very different especially in their approach to Winks' mentee Little Cat / Sammy. Robert Knepper puts forth another world wind bad guy performance as Mr. Gavin while Tamara Duarte turns the head of every young male in the place as Helen's mysterious cousin Suzy.
Badsville is a dark violent, story of people from the wrong side of the tracks. Wink literally walks along train tracks heading to his job as a dishwasher. ballads give the piece flavour supporting a narrative that builds as it progresses. McLaren and Barrett offer a different interpretation of a familiar subject that is well worth a look.
*** out of 4.
Badsville | April Mullen | USA / Canada | 2017 | 97 Minutes.
Tags: Gang, Crew, Family, 50's Era, Greaser, Rumble, Smack, Wife-Beater T, Cigarettes, Pick Up Truck, Legacy, Escape.