Short Film Review “Loyalty or Betrayal”

   

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First, the Recap:

When we make a certain decisions, there can potentially be a myriad of outcomes born from them. Now, whether these end up ideally aiding or hindering our own goals and motivations, that remains to be revealed. Sometimes, what might seem to be the best choice isn’t always the case. A man soon to face such a dilemma is Charlie (Robert Rios). Living a less than stellar life while already battling his own inner demons, Charlie is additionally at the mercy of crime lord Michael (Steven D. Mairano) who has an equally less than stellar offer to make to the struggling underling. Having found out the organization has a rat for the FBI in their midst, Michael offers Charlie the hit.

However, there’s one slight wrinkle that Charlie has to face in taking the job–the rat is his own father Vincent (Richard Sosa). Caught in a total catch 22, Charlie begins to reflect back on his childhood–all the quality time spent with and lessons learned from his father–while also taking assessment of what the money from the hit would do to bring him into much better living conditions, to make something of himself, despite how perverse his reasoning seems. Knowing he has no recourse but to confront his father, Charlie does so having reconciled in his mind what actions he will take. Yet, even as events hurtle forward, it becomes clear that some choices for the “best” might have unanticipated results.

Next, my Mind:

Simple, straightforward execution paired with cleanly shot, equally uncomplicated cinematography aids this 13-minute indie short film effort from writer/director/editor Jonathan Vargas which, while not necessarily treading new ground,  is ultimately redeemed for this reviewer by a clever twist making up the film’s finale, painting a harsh picture of the age-old phrase “beware what you wish for” while also illustrating how actions always have consequences, whether good or bad. I still feel one of Vargas’ other short film offerings, “Our Final Days Together, Part 2“, impacted me more than this one, but it is the use of a rather jarring ending here (as in the aforementioned earlier work, too) that manages to save things from being fairly average overall. The black & white visual style also makes another appearance here, which does tend to lend itself to what is intended to be a more “ominous” ambiance, though again, I still “felt” its utilization more in “Our Final Days…”. As already indicated above, the primary point here is focused on an impossible choice and the ensuing ramifications.

Rios does well as the main protagonist Charlie, a young man struggling with the status of his life while immersed in the ever-so-volatile world of organized crime and the lack of appreciation of those lower in the pecking order contained within it. Given a chance to radically change said standing in both life and the greater family, the only option offered being patricide, Charlie’s future and decision would seem obvious. Yet, the quandary he faces becomes the catalyst that will define him forever. Rios plays to this decently throughout. Sosa likewise embodies his role as Charlie’s father Vincent with solid delivery and a suitably believable demeanor when enacting the hard reality of his son’s predicament after being confronted by him.  It’s a moment of parental anguish and pained understanding, making his son’s choice not easy, yet clearly not dissuading him from his course either. Sosa captures this enough to lend credence to it all.

The supporting cast turns in good performances here. Mairano’s crime boss Michael is your prototypical heavy, whose plainly doing whatever he needs to do to ensure the ongoing operations of his “family” while not tolerating anything that would undermine that or his ruthless authority.  The pleasure he seems to take in offering Charlie his chance to become a “made man” is unnerving, which it should be, and Mairano plays this with veiled glee I feel. Other efforts are turned in by Christina Rodriguez as Michael’s head goon Gina, Christopher Michael and Kenneth Ruiz, Jr. as hitmen who play a significant, albeit brief, part here, Hunter Wayne Pratt as the younger Charlie in flashbacks, as well as Brittany Cascone and Noa Lindberg as models we see via poster images. In total, “Loyalty or Betrayal” has a potent enough message behind it to make it stand out at least a little from other like films, even if not quite reaching greatness.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!

 

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