THE LONER (2016) Film Review from the 15th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Daniel Grove, starring Reza Sixo Safai, Helena Mattsson, Parviz Sayyad, Dominic Rains, Laura Harring, Nikohl Boosheri, David Diaan and Julian Sands.
There are films that seamlessly connect different stories together, and The Loner falls under that as we have both past and present stories of our main character Behrouz (Reza Sixo Safai) that gives viewers a look at his evolution from an orphaned boy from Iran to a gangster in the Iranian mafia in America. Being as this is the debut of feature director Daniel Grove, his film technique may feel like it’s been used before, but he makes it look new and fresh with every scene.
Here’s how the story unfolds – a former criminal who is trying to leave that life behind for a normal one is suddenly pulled back into the criminal underworld that he’s trying to escape from. There have been many Hollywood films with a similar premise, The Loner makes it work by character development and the world in which these characters are inhabiting. The film makes great use of the night scenery in the streets of Los Angeles.
Behrouz is shown as a child soldier in Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s, but after running from the violence of his country’s actions, he makes his journey to the West in America. What was supposed to be his fresh start at a new life suddenly became trading one battlefield to another as he became a gangster for the notorious Cirrus (Parviz Sayyad). Behrouz finally leaves his criminal life behind as he pursues a normal American life as a real estate agent. However, his addictions to his old life soon leave him in a dangerous situation with his old boss. Our protagonist is soon on the run from the criminal underworld and drags his girlfriend Oksana (Helena Mattsson) and her son Sasha (Gregory Kasyan) with him. With his old boss after him, Behrouz realizes that his life as a combatant of war hasn’t completely left him.
In the end, The Loner is a story of the gangster life, mortal sins, and the risk of having hope. The story is told with it’s own individuality and perception. The world in the film is completely different from our own, even though it’s happening right under our noses. All that the film is doing to show us this criminal world is through the eyes of our characters. The trippy neo-noir feel to the film works as cultures clash, gloomy violence, and some sexuality. It all goes smooth as the story builds into the final confrontation.
Sexuality is also heavily used in the film, as everyone seems to be attracted to Behrouz. Whether it’s Russian brothel owner Evgeny (Julian Sands) or Behrouz’s ex-partner Farid (Dominic Rains), it seems that our main character attracts the attention of both men and women. Some of the men also wear nail polish and the neo-noir vibe mixes in the drug effects of opium that Behrouz keeps using. The whole thing may seem like a drug-induced trip, but the strong hyper sexuality of the scenes brings in some great moments.
The story also shows us the relationship between two rival gangs: The Persians and the Russians. So many double-crosses take place as it adds up the flavor to the film genre. The fun starts when we see Behrouz and the rest of our characters run through the night of the bloody L.A. streets. There’s also a lesson about the American dream that is often implied that newcomers may want to start over but they end up facing the same problems as before. They may be changing their look and language, but their struggle hasn’t left them.
The luscious scenery of the L.A. nightlife is brought to life so beautifully by the cinematography of Steven Capitano Calitiri. We see the scenes in bright hue color by the camera and it works well when we transition in and out of the background. The film’s fight scenes are also well done with the continuous take of the brawl as we hear the sounds of the fight behind closed doors before seeing the men all bloodied and beaten up. Even the music by Photek really creates the atmosphere of the film, creating intensity and pacing.
The Loner may feel familiar to our eyes, but it’s being shown in someone else’s window. It is a surreal tale of revenge with a Middle Eastern influence that brings out some new characteristics in what is an already used premise. As a movie about struggling to survive, The Loner brings a glossy and sexy thriller that’s persistently vicious. The stunning camerawork also works in bringing this already-done story to life.
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