Travis Lee Eller, Mark Valeriano, Kate Prendergast, Mikiko Flynn, Wali Habib, Angelica Briones DIRECTED BY
Saxon Moen SCREENPLAY
Adrian Moen, Saxon Moen MPAA RATING
NR RUNNING TIME
83 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY
BayView Entertainment (USA) WATCH ON PRIME VIDEO
Saxon Moen's The Debt of Maximillian picked up a slew of awards during its indie fest journey ranging from Best Actor for Travis Lee Eller (Asian Film Festival - LA Hollywood; Florence Film Awards; Global Film Festival Awards; Kosice International Monthly Film Festival; Top Indie Film Awards) to Best Director for Moen (Top Indie; Kosice; Florence) to even a prize for Best Film Poster (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Festival). The film is the feature directing debut for Moen and has been picked up by indie distributor BayView Entertainment for release.
The film follows the story of Travis Lee Eller's Max, a working class joe who seems to have a pretty decent life with a pregnant wife (Kate Prendergast) and an adorable daughter (Mikiko Flynn). Of course, we wouldn't quite have a thriller if everything was actually decent and, as we quickly suspect it is not.
Max has some serious debts that he hides from his wife, though it's fairly hard to hide a pending foreclosure. He has more luck hiding his gambling addiction, at least until things start to spiral out of control as his bookie (Wali Habib) tires of carrying Max's debt and Max's family starts to wonder what's going on with all this cash he wants to borrow. Max's brother, Kyle (Mark Valeriano), may offer Max a way out but Kyle has his own issues.
The Debt of Maximillian is, despite its flaws, a still rather engaging thriller with Moen having the balls to keep Max from ever becoming truly a likable guy. I doubt I was five minutes into the film before I was asking myself why his wife, Heather, was sticking with this obvious loser and Max essentially maintains that vibe throughout the course of the film. Cinema doesn't have to be about being likable and, indeed, there's a dark cloud hanging over a good majority of The Debt of Maximillian. To be sure, this is an indie thriller, the film's low-budget adding to its sense of grit and gristle and the lack of polish at times working to its advantage.
As is frequently true of low-budget indies, the acting here is hit-and-miss with Mark Valeriano particularly shining as younger brother Kyle. Kudos also go to young Mikiko Flynn, whose performance as Chloe gives the film just the right touch of emotional honesty. Angelica Briones, as well, is sublime.
The Debt of Maximillian is an ambitious film, though it's hard to live up to that ambition when you're living in the microcinema world. While it's telling a story we've pretty much seen before, it's hard not to admire the film for its integrity to keep it real and to not soften its edges.