I must admit that I very nearly hit the stop button even as Hush Money was just getting started. The reason? Oh god, how I absolutely despise screeners that flash one's name or e-mail address across the screen throughout the entire film.
Have I mentioned that I really hate that? I do.
In fact, most of the time I stop watching and delete the e-mail.
For whatever reason, and truthfully I don't know the reason, I decided to keep watching.
Terrell Lamont's Hush Money was, for the most part, worth that hassle. It's a top notch crime thriller about an unemployed art teacher (Joshua Ray) whose efforts to preserve his marriage and way of life lead to an ill-fated decision to take out a loan from a loan shark. Unfortunately, after he gambles it all away and has no way to pay off the debt he learns that he's messing with the kind of people who don't like to be messed with. In an effort to get the cash, he kidnaps the daughter of a baseball player, played to near perfection by Kennedy Waite, but it's a desperate decision that snowballs in more ways than one.
Lamont, a Minnesota born filmmaker who got his start in music videos, has crafted one hell of a film that keeps you involved from beginning to end and benefits, actually soars, thanks to the duo of Joshua Ray and Kennedy Waite. As the desperate artist with just the right amount of humanity, Ray gives the kind of performance that rarely seen among those playing perps in crime thrillers. Ray's performance radiates an understanding, even a compassion for, his character's stark dilemma yet does so without ever minimizing the impact of his behaviors. It's a layered, emotionally raw performance that simply rocks it.
As the young teen, Kennedy Waite manages to give a performance that is both vulnerable and rather fierce at times. Waite's emotional transitions throughout the film are believable, including a sort of layered sense of connection that she feels for this man who threatens her life. It's a terrific performance that makes me hope Hollywood comes knocking on her door.
Lamont himself lenses the film in a way that captures the film's intimacy and suspense, while Matthew Prazak's art direction deserves mention for creating such a gritty and intense environment to go along with Lamont's tight direction and rich, involving story.
Hush Money takes a few minor twists that aren't quite expected, though for the most part it's a rather straightforward yet immensely compelling story brought to life in a way that's far more satisfying than a good number of indie thrillers. The film's supporting players are, at least for the most part, immensely satisfying and it's never completely clear how this all will end up and even whether or not we might be crossing genres.
If you get a chance, definitely check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic