Betray is, at least for the most part, exactly the film you expect it to be. This is neither a good thing or a bad thing. It's just worth noting that it won't take you long down Betray's cinematic road to figure things out, though you're still going to enjoy the journey toward getting there largely owing to writer/director Jaron Lockridge's engaging ensemble and full-on commitment to dramatic storytelling.
The film centers around a couple, Joel (Jeremy Shaw) and Candace (Shi Smith), a promising young couple. Both attractive and personable, on the outside they would seem as if they'd have the idyllic life. However, Joel's a ballplayer dealing with his latest injury that may just be the injury that ends his pro dreams. Candace, on the flip side, is quite the looker who's starting to feel a bit neglected.
You know where this is going?
For the most part, you likely do.
Sure, Lockridge tosses in some twists and turns along the way and sure enough keeps things incredibly real. However, when Deon (Jalen Moffitt) enters the frame we can immediately get a sense of what's going on and where everything's going.
Recently released to streaming via FilmHub, Betray is a stark relationship drama about real people living real lives. Everything here is complex and Lockridge keeps it real by letting us know up front that good people make bad decisions and in most cases no one is really all bad. You can't help but feel for all of these folks even as situations get out of control and behaviors become amplified.
Betray benefits from a strong ensemble cast including its leading duo of Shaw and Smith. I was particularly taken by Shaw's performance here, a little bit of swagger and a little bit of vulnerability and a few undefined qualities that just really sizzle. A relative newcomer, Shaw is one to watch for in the future.
On the flip side, Shi Smith likely travels the farthest here with Candace having a wide range of experiences emotionally and physically. She's sexy as hell, but watching her really surrender herself to the dark places Candace is forced to go is absolutely compelling.
Moffitt also impresses as Deon by avoiding the potential one-note performance and turning Deon into someone we understand even if we don't exactly empathize. It's a strong performance in a difficult role. Timberly Hope is also top-notch as Stephanie.
Original music by Buzz Blackburn is effective throughout Betray's 106-minute running time and this entire film really clicks.
Lockridge has crafted an engaging, thoughtful drama with a strong ensemble cast and storytelling that feels honest and true. While the film occasionally lags in pacing a bit, for the most part you're not going to mind because these are characters you'll want to keep watching and this is a story that will hold your interest.
Betray is currently available for streaming on Vimeo on Demand along with Amazon Prime Video, Google TV, and Youtube TV.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic