Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Austin Film Festival Review: "Dawn Patrol"

Starring Scott Eastwood, Rita Wilson, Jeff Fahey, Kim Matula, Dendrie Taylor, Chris Brochu, Julie Carmen
Directed by Daniel Petrie Jr.

A film that was launched at the Austin Film Festival (the screenplay originated out of a competition at the 2008 event), “Dawn Patrol” is an absolute mess, with stilted dialogue, despicable characters and some surprisingly terrible acting.

As part of a large audience watching its world premiere at the festival, I kept holding out hope that the very rocky start the film gets off to would eventually improve. It didn’t. In fact, it only got worse and more preposterous as the story lumbered forward.

Eastwood (son of Clint) stars as John, a surfer and general beach bum (much like his entire family), who seeks to avenge his brother’s death with predictably negative results. The film opens with John, now a Marine, driving an unidentified passenger to a location out in the desert while a gun is pointed at his head. He sets out to recount his story to the passenger of how they both arrived at this point in time, setting the film on what is primarily a long flashback.

Although John’s brother is portrayed as such a great surfer in the film, he generally seems like such a terrible person, you hardly feel for the family when he’s found dead by his brother one day on the beach. Maybe that was the film’s intent. Who knows? In fact, Eastwood’s character is probably the only one who isn’t drawn like a cliche or a cartoon. The performances of Rita Wilson (as the brothers’ self-absorbed, pot-smoking mom) and Kim Matula (as the dead brother’s on-again, off-again girlfriend) give particularly grating performances. On more than one occasion, the film generated unintentional laughter, such as after a logic-challenging sex scene involving the girlfriend and John in a bank-foreclosed beach house.

So for those looking for a few cheap laughs from an intended drama, “Dawn Patrol” might be worth catching a wave. But for the most part, it’s just a wipeout.

Grade: F
(The film has not yet been rated. Set for release Feb. 6, 2015.)

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