Eye For Film >> Movies >> Death On The Streets (2020) Film Review
Death On The Streets
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
A modern tragedy of male pride plays out in this low-key character study from Johan Carlsen (co-written with Micah Magee), which charts the microsteps to isolation of its central character Kurt (Zack Mulligan) - a Midwest family man whose inability to swallow his ego sees him slip from the moorings of his life.
Kurt is a willing labourer, happy to turn his hand to farm jobs big or small. While that counts for a lot in a place like this, where being a hard worker is something that is viewed with respect, the ingrained cultural importance of being able to graft for your family proves to be a double-edged sword as work starts to dry up. Helping hands are extended but Kurt just can't seem to find it in himself to take any of them because it somehow conflicts with his need to be the breadwinner.
Respect - or the lack of it - lies at the core of much of the action here and is also shown to be found in unexpected places as Kurt takes decisions that just make matters worse but that breathe life into the back section of the film. The fabric of community in the Midwest is keenly observed, with its God-fearing backbone and wide open landscape, where farm machinery and birdsong are the chief breakers of silence but Carlsen's early determination to keep things naturalistic and low-key means parts of the narrative feel underpowered as a result.
The acting, too, is on the patchy side. Mulligan may seem familiar to viewers, after being one of the subjects of skateboard documentary Minding The Gap back in 2018, and he does a solid job here, although Carlsen is asking for a lot of between the lines work for an actor this early in his career. His exchanges with others, however, feel on the forced side - the dialogue has a stilted feel stemming not from Kurt's emotions or even from the non-professional cast (though that doesn't help) but from the fact it all too often seems to have been slotted in to bulk up the film rather than to drive forward his character's experience.
Fewer characters given more room to breathe, a smattering of professional actors and some more in depth dialogue might have worked better in a film that could use a bit more fire in its belly in general, although Carlsen definitely has a good eye for visuals and midwestern ephemera, making the segments of the film without dialogue some of its strongest.Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2021