WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU – A crime drama well worth checking out on DVD
While searching through a Redbox for a DVD to watch over the weekend I stumbled upon What Doesn’t Kill You. While I remember watching the trailer sometime last year, the movie never got much of a theatrical release so it was basically out of mind – out of sight. After viewing I have to say, if you’re a fan of the crime genre, which I happen to be, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the acting and really liked the raw believable look of the film.
What Doesn’t Kill You is basically an old fashion crime drama that is compelling viewing for those who enjoy a solid character study. From the get go you are told that the story is an autobiographical take on the life and experiences of its director, Brian Goodman, who was a petty criminal and drug addict as well as a husband with a wife and two kids.
The story focuses on two characters, the aforementioned Brian (Mark Ruffalo) and Paulie (Ethan Hawke) who are childhood friends, growing up on the mean streets of South Boston. From a very early age the two are overtaken by the road to easy money and big time trouble with their negative environment greatly influencing a destructive lifestyle. In many ways the film is like watching a modest version of The Departed without the complexity. Brian and Paulie first start out as runners for the local organized crime boss (played by the director Brian Goodman), collecting money and doing other low level jobs of need. Eventually the two evolve from small time crime to full blown risk taking (including robbing drug dealers) in order to stay ahead of the curve.
What makes the character of Brian interesting is that he has a wife (a well meaning enabler well played by Amanda Peet) and two kids. While Brian is submerged in his dishonest world there is apart of him torn between that and his responsibility to his family. That small glimmer of reality is what kept me interested in his plight. There’s also a true sadness in his totally self destructive personality (his drug use is another vice) and, while it’s not easy to be empathetic with either him or Paulie, What Doesn’t Kill You is still a compelling piece of work that had me involved throughout. Ruffalo, Hawke and Peet are top notch and I certainly recommend the film for viewers who are into Goodfellas and The Sopranos. Considering its small budget this is a nice piece of work by a first time director who is proof that one can turn their life around no matter how bleak. I give What Doesn’t Kill You 3.75 out of 5. It was a nice find and a diamond in the rough. Glad I stopped by the Redbox – and all this for just a buck!
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