Flinch (2021)

Written & Directed by Cameron Van Hoy

“Indie” is not a genre, but rather an indication of a film’s origins, budget and perhaps even its intentions. It may help inform the style of the film, but an “indie” movie can be all manner of genres: comedy, romance, sci-fi, noir, etc. So while the film community often praises ambitious and oftentimes underseen films for being “indie”, its not really a specific thing that people like. There aren’t a bunch of people out there shouting how much they love studio films, but you will hear how much people like “indie” films. Independent film is essential to the art of movie making, allowing artists to tell their stories unshackled by the decisions of executives more concerned about the bottom line. I support independent cinema, I can’t say I like it. I’m not sure why I necessarily bring up this line of thinking other than to say, I support independent cinema, but I don’t like it because Flinch is an independent film, and I didn’t like it.

Joey (Daniel Zovatto) is a gun for hire who still lives with his mother (Cathy Moriarty) while his father is serving an undetermined sentence for the very job Joey continues. After collecting for his latest job, Joey gets assigned another target, but when the kill goes awry, he ends up left with the target’s assistant Mia (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) with the dilemma of killing the witness or letting her go. As Joey contains Mia at home, his mother is furious for the decision to keep her alive, but over the course of her capture, she begins to fall in love with Joey, complicating matters even further. But can her and Joey’s bond overcome the complicated circumstances of their relationship, or will the pressure of the mob and the police be too much to bear for them to survive?

The film immediately made an impression on me, as it very clearly knows what it wants to be, highlighted by the stylized cinematography and score. The score in particular, performed by synthwave pioneer Miami Nights 1984, stands out as a highlight. It manages to create both a mood and atmosphere in which this neo-noir can unfold, recalling such films and scores as Blade Runner (Vangelis) and Drive (Cliff Martinez). This clear vision lends itself well to the proceedings and carries the energy of the film throughout. Unfortunately its not near as cool or polished a film like Drive, which it clearly pulls a lot from. The cast in particular is lacking when compared to the generational talents of Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Oscar Isaac which graced Drive. Zovatto and Cobham-Hervey do their best with what they’ve got, but the film lacks a certain polished quality from production.

The film also faces some serious pacing problems, as the film is bookended by exciting scenes, but lags greatly in the middle when Joey and Mia are supposedly falling in love and nothing else is happening. The romance hinges on some semblance of Stockholm Syndrome, which in and of itself has been depicted before and by all accounts is a legitimate thing, but Zovatto and Cobham-Hervey lack the necessary chemistry to sell it here. Cobham-Hervey has more charisma, but Zovatto’s performance really comes across as cold and stoney. When the film depends on selling this internal conflict between the two characters, it falls flat when it’s not convincingly sold.

I think a large contributor this failure is the writing for the character of Joey. Who is he? What motivates him? What are his interests and dreams? What has stuck him in this place? Surely we can draw some conclusions based on his father’s incarceration, but he’s not really earned our attention or rooting interest. Especially so when his only cultural reference seems to be The Outlaw, a rather poor western from Howard Hughes that is most notable for ogling Jane Russell throughout. As a Drive-lite, Flinch certainly mirrors some of the tropes seen in that film, but executes them to a much lesser degree, making this a largely unsuccessful neo-noir with a rather beautiful musical score.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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