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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

JUNCTION -- DVD review by porfle

An interesting low-budget thriller, JUNCTION (2012) mixes equal parts morbid humor and nail-biting suspense with a plot that keeps heading up unexpected pathways and getting more and more intense as it goes along.

The four main leads all do excellent work as a group of edgy addicts huddled in a dilapidated car on their way to try and score some more meth.  David (Tom Pelphrey), the de facto leader of the group because it's his car, is at a disadvantage when dealing with meth-lab maestro Tai (Anthony Ruivivar, STARSHIP TROOPERS) since he doesn't have any money. 

Tai, who operates out of his mom's basement, comes up with a deal--he'll supply the goodies if David and company come up with a TV set for his mom's birthday.  Thus given an offer they can't refuse, the four jonesing junkies set off on a mission to break-and-enter their way back to wellness.

Trouble is, they're all on the verge of a spaz attack even while creeping through the home of some unknown family and trying to make off with their flat-screen TV.  David is relatively level-headed, and so is his female friend Kari (Summer Crockett Moore), but Kari's boyfriend "Spot" (Harris Doran) is a nervous bundle of free-floating hostility while addlebrained addict Donald (Neal Bledsoe, SEX AND THE CITY 2) makes Scooby-Doo's pal Shaggy look like Alistair Cooke. 

Up to this point, JUNCTION is toodling along nicely as what seems mainly to be a very deadpan comedy leavened with suspense, some ominous foreshadowing, and an underlying sense of tragedy from seeing these otherwise fairly decent people wasting their lives and bodies away (they really look awful) in pursuit of the next elusive fix. 

All at once things take their first really sharp left turn thanks to an inadvertent discovery by Donald in the attic.  I won't tell you what it is, but it's something that affects him on such a deeply personal level that the sudden appearance of the house's owner, Connor (Anthony Rapp, A BEAUTIFUL MIND), causes the seemingly harmless Donald to attack him like a wild animal, beat him brutally, and then tie him up and torture him.  (It's also the first jarring indication of just how graphic this film's violence is capable of getting.)

This doesn't set well with the others so Donald attacks them for trying to stop him, and pretty soon the situation has become a harrowing free-for-all in which we don't know who's going to go off on whom.  One thing we do know, though, is that in addition to its more ruefully comic moments, JUNCTION now functions on a much darker level where anything can happen and, with Donald getting crazier and more desperate by the minute, chances are it will be bad. 

Further complications appear in the form of Connor's wife Jennifer (Sharon Maguire), who also must be tied up, and young daughter Mia (Danielle Kotch), whom Donald is convinced he must rescue from what, in his mind, are her evil parents.  Worst of all, Mia manages to call 911 and bring supercops Tarelli (David Zayas, "Dexter") and Walters (Michael O'Keefe, CADDYSHACK, THE GREAT SANTINI) into the mix along with most of the city's police force. 

This is where JUNCTION begins to take on elements of past films such as THE DESPERATE HOURS and DOG DAY AFTERNOON as the hostage crisis escalates amidst much interpersonal drama between both cops and criminals.   (All of which is handled nicely on the film's small budget.)  David and Kari's basic decency puts them at odds with the now extremely dangerous Donald, while Spot's focus on self-preservation makes him  yet another unpredictable wild card. 

Zayas and O'Keefe keep things hopping on the law-and-order side as they prove themselves to be two of the most capable character actors at work today.  The sharp script by first-time director Tony Glazer lags a bit here and there but always manages to get its second wind--aided by some very nimble direction and editing--as things build to a fairly riveting conclusion. 

The DVD from Grand Entertainment Group is in 1.33:1 widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of the film's trailer and a making-of featurette. 

With lead actors who are truly convincing as meth addicts scraping the bottom of life's barrel, JUNCTION establishes a solid basis from which to spring a disorienting series of events on the viewer.  The climax is cathartic, but there's a final touch at the fadeout that's troubling even though you'll probably sorta see it coming.

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