Cronies

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Twenty-two-year-old Louis doesn’t know whether his childhood friendship with Jack will last beyond today.
"There is an unvarnished authenticity to these men and their situation."

There is no doubting that director Michael Larnell has style. His black and white film, which employs the somewhat tired fake documentary trope as a framing device, is littered with lovely moments and he gets excellent performances from his young ensemble cast - but his storyline unfortunately mimics the aimless quality of his central characters, so that this day in the life feels more drawn out than it should.

It's a hot summer day in St Louis and the cronies in question are Louis (George Semple III) and Jack (Zurich Buckner). At a glance they seem unlikely buddies - but, as Larnell's film goes on to explore, this is often the way with friends made in childhood. Louis is a soft-hearted kind of guy, bookish in his spectacles and heading out of the home he shares with his girlfriend and young daughter on a mission to find the little girl a birthday present. Jack, on the other hand, is bold as brass and with a mouth full of gold.

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The third wheel on the crony wagon is Andrew (Brian Kowalski) a white workmate of Louis' and his latest pal. When Jack and Andrew meet unexpectedly, the trio embark on a day out together that tests the bonds of the older friendship to the max. That the established relationship is between two black guys and the incomer is white is, in many ways inconsequential to the story, Jack and Andrew are both making value judgements about each other from the off but they have nothing to do with background. Larnell also avoids the pitfall of having Andrew be some sort of squeaky clean sort, he's just as aimless as the other two.

This is, in short, not a film about race but about the race of life and who you choose to run it with. Jack's resentment of Andrew is fuelled by jealousy and there's no getting away from the fact that he is not a great influence on his childhood friend - or that Louis is beginning to notice. But his commitment to Louis is still full on and has depths that are founded on shared experience. The three of them muddle along through a day that involves, but is not limited to, that search for a present, some casual drug taking, a gun and a spot of gambling. The plot suffers from meanderings and the reliance on a slightly laboured flashback device, although the decision to shoot these segments in colour is an excellent one, emphasising the vividness of childhood memory. Despite its narrative problems, there is an unvarnished authenticity to these men and their situation. Semple, Buckner and Kowalski feel like people you know and their reactions to the situations they find themselves have a chapel bell ring of truth. All three actors are at the start of careers that, on the strength of this, are likely to be about to take off.

Larnell also deserves credit for what he has achieved with Cronies - his thesis film from NYU, which was executive produced by one of his tutors, Spike Lee. He may not have quite found his rhythm yet, but his voice is full of potential.

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2015
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Old friendship is tested by a day out with a new buddy.


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