Low-budget Indie Films from first time feature film directors often fall short in multiple areas. This isn’t meant to be snarky or condescending; making a movie is really freaking difficult. Very few people nail it on their first go. Even fewer do so working with, largely, an inexperienced cast and crew. When I watch these movies I try to do so with a grain of salt. I know there will be bumps and bruises, but I want to find the beams of light that poke their heads out, the potential waiting to boil over. Brut Force isn’t a movie with little glimmers of hope. No, it is chock full of it. The light, bursting through, is impossible to miss.
This starts with writer/director Eve Symington, who did a remarkably rare thing in her feature film debut; she made the universe her movie existed in a character of its own. We’ve seen it before. In Zach Braff’s feature film debut as a writer & director Garden State, Braff, who also starred in the film, brought his small New Jersey hometown to life with quirks that made it feel unique to the big screen. But the world Symington creates in Brut Force, set in the rural wine country of California, feels both authentic and unique.
Brut Force opens by introducing us to the film’s protagonist Sloane Sawyer (Lelia Symington, The Fight Within) who, just after being fired from her job as a reporter, gets a call from an acquaintance in her hometown asking for her help. He tells her about the harassment and racism migrant workers, some of whom work for her step-father Arthur (played by Symington’s father Sidney), have been exposed to, and hopes she will investigate the situation. Sloane, who had left on bad terms following the death of her mother, cannot avoid the temptation of a good mystery. Just when she thought she was out…
While Eve Symington certainly has an eye for the universe she created, Lelia, Eve’s sister, is in perfect sync with her as the film’s lead. Sloane is an impressively in depth character for a movie driven by its plot narrative. She is strong, holding her own in multiple fights, but also vulnerable, struggling to remain composed as Arthur repeatedly tries to discuss Sloane’s mother with her. When Tico, played phenomenally by the Teen Wolf television show veteran Tyler Posey, is introduced, we see Sloane let her guard down, desperate for a connection. Posey himself breaks type from what we saw in Teen Wolf; there is a mystery to him. He is asked to keep his All-American charm so the audience understands why Sloane falls under Tico’s spell so quickly, while also possessing a dark side that makes the audience unable to fully trust him.
Brut Force‘s mystery unravels slowly, as if you are peeling back an onion layer by layer. The world mixes the harshness of the conditions the migrants operate in with the beauty of the wine country. Almost like it’s meant to be a reminder of what these characters are helping create, but will likely never obtain for themselves. If I have a single complaint it would be that, in an attempt to wrap the movie up in a meaningful way, the film moves in a direction that feels slightly antithetical to its theme and foundation. The end of the final act sees the main characters solving a dilemma you didn’t know existed for much of the film. It’s a climax that feels, almost, anticlimactic?
Maybe the movie deserved a better ending. No matter, because in spite of that, Brut Force is beautifully made with a writer/director who has a clear vision for the universe she created. There is thrilling action, relatable emotional depth, great, diverse acting, and even some comic relief that allows you to take a breath. What more could you want from an Indie Film? Or, for that matter, any film?
Brut Force is available on Video on Demand platforms now.