“Chase” – Cannot Quite Catch its Target

From writer and director Michael Matteo Rossi, Chase follows the title character’s (Damien Puckler) journey as he attempts to maneuver his way out of a life of crime, violence, and deception. There is a solid layer of intriguing foundational material for this narrative as Chase is conflicted by allegiances to his closest friend and crime partner, Miles (Aries Spears), on the one side and to his wife (Jessica Morris) and son (Eli Michael Kaplan) on the other side. This is the formula for a fascinating character study and crime drama which, although recycled and reprocessed countless times previously, still maintains a certain level of potential if executed efficiently. Regrettably, the final product here is an unrelenting disaster with very few redeeming qualities.

Damien Puckler as the title character, Chase.

Right off the bat, viewers will recognize this film as a “Hard-R” rating, based on the initial conversation between Chase and Miles. The opening of the film is fairly stimulating stylistically, with a catchy pop beat playing over the credits before revealing the two characters having a conversation over drinks on an outside patio. The lighting choices and use of shadows create a unique aura and tone around the two characters, as they simply sit and talk at night as two old friends. However, the dialogue written for them is incredibly explicit. Practically every single profanity, crude sexual remark, and socially unacceptable phrase finds its way into the fold of the conversation. This pattern continues throughout the entire movie. Of course, there have been many successful films in the past that have managed to weave this vulgar dialogue into the narrative in a believable fashion, further complementing the mood and atmosphere of the story (e.g. anything written by Quentin Tarantino), but, unfortunately, the incorporation of this language into Chase feels exceedingly forced and inauthentic. This repetition becomes quite stale, very quickly. The written dialogue is not only artificial and gratuitously over-the-top, but the delivery of these lines is enough to elicit multiple cringes and winces from the viewer. The emotions and mannerisms of the actors are not convincing in any way and a few supporting performances, in particular, are horribly insufficient. Even still, it gets worse. What little dialogue is present without obscenity is remarkably unimaginative, predictable, cheesy, and unintentionally farcical. Certain moments will likely have audience members struggling to take anything in the film seriously.

Aries Spears as Miles.

While the main protagonist, Chase, seems to have a moderate level of nuance and depth based on his internal struggles and contesting loyalties, Damien Puckler fails to capture the essence of this character in his performance. He certainly gives effort in this role, but it was almost excessive. He appears to be trying too hard to produce a realistic depiction of this figure and it comes across as artificial and factitious. Still, Chase’s character, and every other character in the story for that matter, is not done any favors by the highly suspect writing and screenplay. There is nothing remotely intriguing below the surface since there was no development of deeper layers or concepts for the narrative on top of this crime drama formula. Each story beat is clichéd and unoriginal, adding nothing fresh or exciting to the genre. The characters make ridiculously illogical decisions and mistakes. A couple of scenes are even totally unnecessary within the context of the story. One notable action sequence is thrown in for nothing more than cheap entertainment. It serves absolutely no purpose to the progression of the narrative. Even if a viewer just wants to sit back and catch a mildly intriguing action flick and is able to set aside the inadequate acting and miserable dialogue, the combat scenes are clumsily choreographed and atrociously mishandled. The make-up and prosthetics that are supposed to pass for blood and bruising are unabashedly amateurish. There is almost nothing engaging about even the most noteworthy scenes.

Damien Puckler as Chase.

If there are any positive notes to be made, the musical score (Salil Bhayani) and music supervision are somewhat effective in helping to develop the tone and vibe of a story following modern day gangsters and mobsters. This one effective element of the film remains relatively consistent throughout the entirety of the runtime. Looking to the cinematography, lighting, and art direction, there are also a handful of compelling frames and moments that perhaps earned an extra hash mark in the rating for this film. The colors and lights of the city, paired with competent shot selection, serve to construct an interesting visual aesthetic and expression. Still, this is no saving grace for a script corrupted with festering sores and gaping vulnerabilities.

Jessica Morris as Blair.

Despite a few ingredients and elemental components that might have led to a respectable crime drama or action thriller, the end result is a painstaking 80 minutes of instantly forgettable cinema. Chase is a film that can easily be skipped by most film fans without missing anything memorable in the slightest.

Grade: D

*This review was originally published by Elements of Madness on June 19, 2019, at https://elementsofmadness.com/2019/06/19/chase-2019/. *

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