The crime thriller TWO STEP debuted at the 2014 South by Southwest Festival and made the festival rounds throughout 2014.
James (Skyy Moore) is a college dropout who lives with his grandmother. When his grandmother passes away, James is on his own in a town where he doesn’t know anyone else. He meets his grandmother’s neighbor Dot (Beth Broderick), an attractive middle-aged dance instructor, and soon develops an attachment to her. Meanwhile, jailhouse lowlife Webb (James Landry Hébert) spends his time in prison calling random numbers from to scam old people out of money. Webb is released from prison into a desperate situation, and he proves how cerebral and destructive he can be when he and James inadvertently cross paths.
TWO STEP is a thriller that has some very unique elements – for one, much of the violence – and there is plenty – happens off-screen. This isn’t a movie about physical violence, it is about the mental toll that desperation causes. First time feature writer/director Alex R. Johnson structures the film to hide the violence, particularly in the dangerous, slow-spoken way that Webb carries himself. While Webb is obviously distressed, both James and Dot have their own issues within their lives. Both are somewhat lost causes, and it’s fascinating how the film hints at the nature of their friendship.
The final third of TWO STEP almost entirely focuses on Webb, shifting him from the film’s antagonist role to the protagonist’s role. Much of it involves him driving around talking to people and tying up the loose ends in his life, which meanders too much. This pushes both James and Dot’s characters to the fringe of the narrative, and if you are more interested in their predicaments than Webb’s (as I was), you will be disappointed. Because of that, as engaged I was in the setup of the conflict of TWO STEP, I was disappointed in not seeing more of these characters because their personal conflicts remain largely unresolved.
TWO STEP is worth a watch, but the ending holds it back from being a unique crime thriller that would set it apart from the dozens of above average crime films that appear at festivals every year. Johnson definitely shows a talented eye for directing – and Hébert plays a great villain – so I’m looking forward to see if Johnson can grow as a filmmaker with his next feature.
Film Review Rating 3 out of 5 : See it … It’s Good
Opens July 31st in NY at the Village East Cinema, and August 7th in LA, will be available across major iVOD/cVOD platforms starting on September 1st.
Written and Directed by Alex R Johnson
Starring Beth Broderick, James Landry Hébert, Skyy Moore, Jason Douglas, Ashley Rae Spillers
Written by Christopher McKittrick