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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Ty Hodges, Steve Connell, Ari Graynor, Henry G. Sanders, Sydney Tamiia Poitier
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Brandon Sonnier
MPAA RATING
NR (Equiv. to "R")
RUNNING TIME
83 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Level 33 Entertainment (DVD)

 "Blues" Review 
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Chile (Ty Hodges) and Head (Steve Connell) are two wannabe thugs who get more than they bargained for when they duck into a blues joint while on the run from cops after what should have been an easy robbery goes awry.

Holed up in the blues joint, Chile and Head quickly concoct a garden variety of hostage scenarios in hopes of finding a way out of this tight spot, while a now incapacitated cop (Peter Gail), the joint's owner (Henry G. Sanders), the floor manager (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), an ex-con and new bartender (Roberto Urbina) and the joint's entertainer (Rahman Jamaal)  and others serve as hostages, escape routes and more. Tempers flare and violence results as the day transpires and our two wannabe thugs begin to question who they are, the choices they are making and whether or not they can really trust one another.

Blues is a taut and tightly written drama from Brandon Sonnier, whose The Beat premiered at Sundance Film Festival when Sonnier was a mere 20-years-old. While Blues isn't quite on the level of The Beat, it is a substantial and meaningful crime thriller and a terrific DVD release for indie Level 33 Entertainment. Level 33 Entertainment is a mostly genre specific distributor, and Blues intertwines touches of John Singleton, Clint Eastwood and Dog Day Afternoon into an affecting and unforgettable crime thriller.

As is true of most any blues joint, this urban crawlspace is a claustrophobia-inducing dwelling where there are no secrets and where the truth is either going to set you free or it's going to kill you. Ty Hodges, who got his start on Disney's Even Stevens, is rock solid as Chile, a criminal with a conscience whose soul-searching serves as the heart and soul foundation of Blues. Steve Connell has the challenge of maintaining audience interest in a character who is the most unpredictable figure in this potentially lethal equation and whose near constant hypervigilance becomes exhausting and tiresome both due to Connell's strong performance and Sonnier's relentless script. The two actors together are combustible, but in such a way that makes their partnership both believable and understandable. It's easy to get why these two became mutual wannabes, but it also becomes easy to see what may very well tear them apart.

Among the supporting players, Henry G. Sanders is an absolute stand-out as Pop Sanders, who was born and raised in this blues joint and whose conversations with Chile are simultaneously heartfelt, authentic and emotionally intense. Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof) and Peter Gail (Jarhead) also shine in supporting roles.

Christopher Westlake's original music complements the film's dramatic story arc while remaining faithful to its bluesy, urban feel while D.P. Graham Futerfas lenses the film with an uncomfortable yet spot on grittiness.

While the storyline itself is familiar, Sonnier mines new territory and gives us emotionally resonant and dramatically electrifying characters with whom we become invested and involved. Blues lags a bit in its final third as the basic storyline begins to feel a bit padded and overrun by exposition, but the film itself is wrapped up with such unexpected power that nearly all is forgiven.

Blues is currently available on DVD through Level 33 Entertainment. Visit the Level 33 Entertainment website for more information.  The film is also available for rental through Youtube - see the trailer below!

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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    The Independent Critic is proud to support Indy-based Heartland Film by committing to the 50/50 x 2020 Pledge - By the end of the year 2020, The Independent Critic will achieve gender parity in its reviews of both shorts and feature films. Furthermore, The Independent Critic also pledges support for the Ruderman Family Foundation's call for authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and actively commits to leverage its journalistic influence to effect genuine change in the film industry by calling for and actively promoting authentic and inclusive casting and hiring of people with disabilities.

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