Sunday, October 13, 2019

You won't have to read anyone 'The Riot Act' to enjoy pieces of this film

Brett Cullen, currently portrays Thomas Wayne, father of Batman-to-be, in big, bad "Joker," but he's enjoying a similar role in a much smaller indie film these days as well. That would be "The Riot Act," an occasionally hoot-worthy, but atmospherically swell drama from first-time feature director Devon Parks.

The same guy wrote the screenplay and also likely gets credit for hiring the talented Cullen to play Dr. Willard Pearrow, a character with a disposition that certainly resembles Wayne's. This time, Cullen definitely stars as a wealthy, arrogant theater owner in a western town, circa 1900, and the kind of Big Shot whose standing there allows him to get away with murder.

In fact, the movie actually initiates a kind of "Phantom of the Opera" feel right from the start since Cullen's Pearrow kills a lead tenor for having an affair with his daughter (Laura Sweetser) and boldly attempting to take her away on the midnight train to who knows where.

Unfortunately, Pearrow accidentally wounds his offspring during the dastardly deed, but she still escapes via the choo-choo, leaving Daddy a broken man addicted to morphine.

We find out the latter news a few years later, just when Pearrow is ready to shutter the theater. Then -- voila -- a troupe that claims to offer "high-end vaudeville" arrives, not only to seriously heat up plot possibilities, but prove that Parks might have a real future at the movies.

Rated "PG-13": violence and brief drug material; 1:41; $ $ $ out of $5

(This is one in an intermittent series of reviews featuring buzz-worthy films either currently playing the festival circuit or soon to be released. "The Riot Act," which took home a couple of L.A. Film Awards last February and a Best Picture nomination from the recent Dallas Film Festival, is now showing on a few VOD outlets.)

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