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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.25.14] thriller drama crime



Somewhere in Texas, a man in an orange jacket calls down a list of telephone numbers searching for his “grandpa.” The first thing that comes to mind is that this poor guy has somehow lost track of his family and is trying to reconnect with them. As quickly as that thought enters it's gone. The camera pulls out slightly and we see the man's orange jacket is actually a prison jumper and rather than calling from a payphone somewhere outside, he's in prison.

This introduction to Webb, one of the leads of Alex R. Johnson's feature film debut, is a perfect encapsulation of Two Step as a whole: it's not the movie it appears to be. It doesn't play by any rules besides its own and the need to be as realistic as possible. There is little in the way of glorified violence and even less action but like Blue Ruin, Johnson's movie far surpasses any ideas you might have about what a Texas thriller about a con-artist can and should look like.


The second half of Two Step unfolds like a classic crime story; you have Webb, a desperate man, recently released from jail, wronged by his girlfriend and owing a dangerous man a lot of money, doing everything he can to raise funds to get himself off the hook but the movie's first half feels like a completely different beast introducing James, a mumbly college dropout who ends up with a load of money and has a romantic inclination towards a neighbour that he awkwardly pursues. You can put two and two together that those two unlikely individuals eventually meet but the circumstances under which they meet are brilliantly concocted. When James and Webb meet, things immediately go south. What's fascinating is how quickly it all goes wrong and how seamlessly Two Step shifts from James' perspective to Webb's.

The first few times we see Webb following his release, he comes across as a squirmy man with anger issues who is simply interested in saving his own hide but as the movie progresses, we start to see that just below that pansy veneer is a genuinely ugly human being as vile, corrupt and as heartless in his pursuit as any killer. There's something methodical and cold about Webb's actions that are reminiscent of Javier Bardem's villainous Anton and James Landry Hébert deserves much praise for his portrayal of Webb who comes across as a naïve criminal but slowly morphs into a stone cold killer. Hébert is joined by a great assortment of actors including relative newcomer Skyy Moore as James who is really put through the paces in the movie's second half.

Accompanied by a great moody and sometimes oppressive score from musician Andrew Kenny (of The American Analog Set and most recently The Wooden Birds fame), Two Step is a great new spin on the thriller.

Two Step plays VIFF on Tuesday, September 30 and Thursday, October 2. Director Alex R. Johnson will be present for Q&A's at both screenings. Our exclusive interview with Johnson will be posted next week.

TWO STEP - TRAILER from Alex R Johnson on Vimeo.


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