Cinematic Releases: Juggernaut (2018) - Reviewed

A hero returning home to avenge the death of a loved one is not a new, original idea. The trope has been played straight, inverted, or twisted into a convoluted mess (sometimes all three at once!) hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times since the dawn of storytelling. However, these days, an original concept isn’t nearly as important as execution and how the final product plays to the audience. In his screenwriting and directorial debut, Juggernaut, Daniel DiMarco unquestioningly succeeds at taking a time-worn trope and turning it into something special.

The story centers around fresh out of prison, ne’er-do-well Saxon Gamble (played with brooding menace by The Strain’s Jack Kesy), who returns to find that his home town is on a financial upswing thanks to a booming new industry…a prison. It doesn’t take long for our hero to make himself comfortable back behind bars, and it’s even shorter still before he’s bailed by his Good brother, Dean. Who, it just so happens, not only planned the shiny, new prison, but also paid for it. Hmm. Where did he get the money for a project of that scale? It just so happens that while Saxon was locked up, their mother ended her own life. And, wouldn’t you know, the always strapped for cash mom had a big life insurance policy. Curioser and curiouser. This sets Saxon on a vengeance hungry mission to find the truth behind his mother’s death and his brother’s money, and thus begins the story.

While Jack Kesy’s performance is undoubtedly strong, giving small glints of softness and vulnerability amidst the righteous anger and violent rage, he’s evenly matched by his co-stars across the board. Notably, veteran “that guy” actor Peter McRobbie, most easily recognizable for his turn in 2015’s The Visit, gives an exceptional performance as the reformed patriarch of the Gamble family. His character, Leonard, has the most interesting character arc, and therefore, the most room to work in his role. Amanda Crew of Silicon Valley also finds a sweet spot as the film’s sole female character, turning a slightly underwritten character into one with depth and heart.

The real star of the film, though, is British Colombia. Patrick Scola’s cinematography is breathtaking and the vast panoramas, mixed in with gorgeous close-ups of the characters, set the film apart and give DiMarco’s script and direction a beautiful home. Adding to the production value, Michelle Osis’s score is haunting, emotive, and exactly the right tone to highlight not only the impressive scenery, but the deeper facets of the script and story, lending credence to the “things are not always what they appear” angle the film takes.

Putting the ideas behind what makes people good or bad in the eyes of society on display, Juggernaut leaves the viewer with interesting questions about their own biases, morality and choices. It’s interesting to find so much truth in the concept that “respectable” doesn’t equate to good, and “rough” doesn’t equate to bad. Much like our own world, judging a book by its cover can be devastating, and siding with the respectable can lead to dire consequences. And with this, Daniel DiMarco accomplishes what every filmmaker aspires to do, leaves the audience unable to stop thinking about his story.

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-Josie Stec