My Father, Die
Deaf and mute since having his hearing knocked out at the age of 12, Asher has been training for almost two decades to avenge himself on Ivan, the man that killed his older brother, 21 years ago. And now that his nemesis is out of prison, he gets his chance. But Asher's target also happens to be his father.
My Father, Die is the feature film directorial debut of Sean Brosnan – son of former James bond, Pierce Brosnan (who co-produced here).
It’s far from horror, but right on the money as far as “horrific”. It’s a psychological revenge thriller that at times, packs quite a wallop – but mostly gets lost along the way.
Asher (Abattoir’s Joe Anderson) lives in a small, white-trash town in Mississippi. When he was young, his abusive father and Vietnam vet Ivan (Gary Stretch), beat Asher until he was deaf, and beat Asher’s brother until he was dead. Fast forward 20 or so years, and Ivan has been released from prison early – due to good behavior and overcrowding. Learning this news, Asher embarks on a quest to find his brutal father and make him pay for all that he had done 20 years ago. Along for the ride is Asher’s unrequited love Nana (Candace Smith) a former lover of both Asher’s father and brother.
The acting of Joe Anderson as a grown-up Asher – was appropriately touching when need be and terrifying when it was time for Asher to take charge. Since Asher’s now a mute (after having been mocked following his hearing loss), he’s totally the strong, silent type. Anderson has a slight frame, but he commands the screen regardless – just based purely on the rage his character is working through. In emotional moments, his eyes tell the entire tale. With no dialogue, Anderson must rely solely on body language and facial expressions to completely relay all that Asher is feeling. It’s a very strong performance.
Candace Smith does a great deal with a part that is basically a play on the “hooker with the heart of gold” stereotype. Sure, Nana’s not a call girl, but she does webcam sex shows. And she’s got a young son and is working to better his life as well as hers. So the part is not necessarily the most original, but we absolutely love Nana, her hard-headedness, her grittiness and her compassion.
I found the supporting turn from Kevin Gage as Ivan’s right hand man and long-time military buddy – Tank – truly amazing and touching. He becomes the target of Asher early on the picture, as Asher tries to locate his father, and when Tank’s tortured for information, it’s a no-holds-barred performance. He makes you feel Tank’s pain. It’s epic. And later, when Ivan confronts him about a possible betrayal of Ivan’s location, Gage delivers some truly authentic and heart-wrenching words and tears. I was really taken aback by the emotion in this scene. Tank’s painful belief that he has failed his best friend – will actually hurt the audience as well. Amazing.
I was also intrigued by the very homoerotic themes and images throughout. I can’t imagine that any of that was on accident – the muzak version of Donna Summer’s duet with Barbra Streisand – “Enough is Enough” playing in a hotel lobby, the very heavy “seduction” scene (an undercover cop hitting on Ivan) and the plethora of high-octane testosterone and male flesh throughout – makes me wonder if these were all not so subtle hints as to who Asher really was – regardless of his deep love for and infatuation with Nana. Definitely food for thought.
My biggest concern with this film, is its lack of a clear voice. I think Brosnan (writing as well as directing the film) has an amazing eye, and a good grasp of character, but as far as finding a cohesive tone to bring it all together, the film fails. It feels like pieces of director Jeff Nichols’ (Take Shelter and Mud) best work combined with elements of The Terminator and then there are chunks of pure exploitation thrown in. It’s a problem like this, an issue of “the film doesn’t know what it wants to be” which mires the rest of the movie’s more quality pieces – down into a lesser rating… in this case, a 3 ½ star review from this critic.
There’s a masterful chase scene toward the center of the picture, and as exciting and amazingly shot as it was – it is a perfect example of (again) the film’s unclear tone. This turned into a scene out Tarantino’s Death Proof, with Ivan gunning away at a speeding car ahead of him – a la the aforementioned The Terminator. Sure, this is gritty and crazy fun, but does it work in the context of the rest of the film? There’s also a slow-motion murder scene where a bed is flipped up by Ivan – and it looks like a moment inspired directly by Schwarzenegger’s iconic performance.
But in the end, the film is all about brothers and the special bond they hold. And dammit if the piece didn’t get me a bit teary-eyed in the final moments. It’s a bloody stand-off you’ll see coming from a mile away (where else would you expect the film to go?) and then the brief denouement following the over-the-top battle – well, it’s heartfelt but a 180 degree turnabout from 2 minutes before.
Appearing in smaller roles, The Dukes of Hazzard’s John Schneider (seriously, this man does not age) and from the new cult favorite television show Stranger Things, Chester Rushing as Asher’s older brother – appearing in black and white flashbacks.
My Father, Die is technically an engaging film – it looks good. The actors are spot-on and this twisted tale of familial revenge carries a lot of emotion – that is, when it’s not trying to be something else.
There are so few pieces in the world of cinema which can fire on all cylinders and get away with being some sort of mega-beast of various genres. My Father, Die is not one of them. Had it stuck to a solid revenge and character piece, and avoided the almost campy exploitation bits, it might have been stronger. In this case, if you can’t make it work on every level you want, then you simply can’t have it all.
The film won four awards at the 16th Annual Screamfest Film Festival; including Best Feature Film, Best Director (Brosnan), Best Editing and Best Score.
My Father, Die has played several festivals (including South by Southwest) but no wider release information is currently available.