Streaming Now: Thumper (2017) Reviewed

The war on drugs is a series of endless Pyrrhic victories, artistically represented across media as stories about desperation, circumstance, and ineffectual statutes for addicts.  Jordan Ross's debut feature film, Thumper, is a snapshot of futility, housed in a devastating package.  Featuring a surprisingly solid ensemble performance and distinct lack of preach, this is a gritty, realistic foray into the realities of narcotic related crimes.  

Wyatt is a low-level kingpin of a dilapidated Californian town, running his low rent empire with high school dealers.  The arrival of a mysterious new student, threatens to destroy not only Wyatt's operation, but the lives of the teenagers in his employ.  There are virtually no surprises in Ross's script.  Things end as they are expected to, an aura of uncomfortable oppression hangs over everything, and the new girl is exactly what the viewer will instantly think she is.  However, this is a story about characters, about the flesh and blood casualties on both sides of the legal divide.  Within seconds, the viewer is transported into the lives of the players.  Drug dealers cradle infants and tip toe across toy filled floors while conducting their illicit exchanges.  Police officers sacrifice their families and personal well-being for statistical appeasement of politicians and social media headlines.  This is the world as it is for those beyond the screen. A wasteland of drug fueled revelry and predatory potentates.  

Pablo Schreiber gives an inspired performance as Wyatt.  While his character is more akin to a planet around which everything orbits, his menacing countenance and hateful creed is the focus every time he appears.  He is supported by Eliza Taylor as the new girl, Kat.  Taylor's ability to display weakness is outstanding.  The dialogue heavy script relies entirely on her fluidity, and she does not disappoint, displaying an array of emotions, ill-advised decision making, and heart shattering realizations.  Daniel Webber rounds out the cast as Beaver, one of the local dealers.  This is an essential turn in what otherwise could have been a forgettable crime thriller.  His compassion and fading innocence dwell within sad, longing eyes and Webber's unobtrusive body language.  His Beaver is a victim and an enabler, going along to get along in a world gone awry.  

Doug Emmet's cinematography captures the feel of other thrillers that executive producer Cary Joji Fukunaga has been involved with.  Backyards are metallic graveyards filled with rust and the interiors are unflinching representations of economic distress.  When filming, Ross elected to use actual homes that belonged to families to ensure accuracy.  The result is a visual presentation akin to being dragged across the pavement.  Everything, from the lonely houses to graffiti covered walls hurts, presenting the town as something that has already died, but just doesn't know it yet.  

Ultimately, this is an imperfect, but memorable film that doesn't bring anything new to the table, outside of Schreiber's furious performance.  Some of the dialogue outpaces the talent of the supporting casts while other character's (such as Lena Headey) are wasted on cheap stereotypes when the bulk of the central narrative is attempting to break the same cliché’s.  Still, there's something ugly about Thumper that will stay with the viewer, like stepping into something foul that sticks to your shoe.  If you're interested in an above-board drug drama with low action and heavy characterizations, this will not disappoint.  

--Kyle Jonathan