Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Image Entertainment
Running time: 94
Media Mikes Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars
It all comes down to bad luck. One day you’re wondering how your friend is doing, the next your at his funeral because he got run over by a city bus. Such is the day that Zach (Michael Pitt), Noah (Dan Stevens), Warren (Christopher Abbott) and Bryce (Rob Brown) have when they attend the above named friend’s funeral. Meeting up afterwards they catch up with each other’s lives. All are doing fine but, like everyone else, can surely use a bump in income. Bryce shares with the others a medical company his cousin works for is about to go public. He also notes that they have an FDA approved drug about to be released. His cousin has accumulated a lot of stock and is looking to sell some. The price: $200,000. Only Noah seems to have the necessary funds so he agrees to front the amount for the group. Things go well until it’s discovered that the drug company was a sham and now it’s time to pay the piper. And the piper wants his money NOW!
“Criminal Activities” is the cleverly written directorial debut of actor Jackie Earle Haley and is a gem that was sadly overlooked during it’s theatrical release last November. The film follows the young quartet as they meet up with their financial benefactor, Eddie (Travolta, in tip-top “Get Shorty” form). With interest, etc, the boy’s $200,000 debt is now doubled. Eddie gives the lads a chance to clear the books. It seems one of his underworld rivals has kidnapped a family member and Eddie wants to repay the favor by having the rivals’ nephew snatched. It’s obvious that the boys are in over their heads when none of them recognize the gangster’s name. “Google him,” they are told. They somehow manage to pull off the kidnapping but they end up grabbing much more than they bargained for.
A triumph on all levels, the film’s strongest point is it’s cast. All four young leads have energy to burn, as does Edi Gathegi, who plays their kidnapee, Marques. As the old pro, it’s so good to see John Travolta having so much fun with a role. Director Haley cast himself and Christopher Jay Gresham as Eddie’s henchmen, and their interaction with the others makes for some of the films more humorous moments. As a director, Haley keeps the story moving at a fine pace, making great use of both long tracking shots and the sights of the city of Cleveland at night. Robert Lowell’s script is witty and sarcastic, with a twist to rival “The Usual Suspects.” If you didn’t get the chance to see this last year, I hope you find the time to see it now. You won’t be disappointed.