5Lb of Pressure | Review by: Gaius Bolling


5lbs of Pressure doesn't add anything new to the crime thriller genre but that's not to be meant as a detriment. By hitting on familiar beats, with the help of top-notch performances, writer/director Phil Allocco taps into what makes these films work. This is a tale of redemption and how being a product of your environment can shape you for better or worse. It's a story told across many films but that doesn't mean that Allocco's lens isn't still profoundly tragic and gripping. It's the sense of familiarity that makes the film work and as it reaches its tension-filled climax, anxiety hits a high hoping that the characters won't end up in an all too familiar outcome.

Seeking redemption is Adam (Luke Evans). He's an ex-con, now sober, who is finishing his last month of probation for committing a crime that will continue to have a ripple effect through his life, even though he would like to leave it behind. He's attempting to forge a relationship with his son Jimmy (Rudy Pankow), who doesn't know him, and his ex-girlfriend Donna (Stephanie Leonidas), who is trying to shield her son from the potential heartbreak of knowing a father who did something to put them in a situation where she had to do the best she could do to help them survive. Despite his best intentions, Adam has been gone too long and his road to redemption won't be as simple as he would like it to be.

Complicating matters is that his road to forgiveness hits a snag when Eli (Zac Adams), the brother of the man he murdered, hears that he is back in town which prompts him and his drug-dealing friends Mike (Rory Culkin) and Leff (Alex Pettyfer) to want to seek out their brand of revenge. What results is a collision course of characters that are all struggling in their own ways as a practically ugly showdown seems inevitable.

Making up for the fact that the script has beats the audience will be familiar with, are characters that don't fit a certain model and aren't all stereotypes. Allocco writes each character, even those who may perceived as the villains here, as human and gives them a sense of duality that goes beyond some of their nefarious deeds. Jimmy for instance is a product of his environment because a lack of a male father figure has made him aimless and easy to be taken in by the streets, although he's not TOO far gone yet that he can't get pulled out. On the other end of the spectrum is someone like Mike, completely pulled into a dirty business by the less-than-worthy role model Leff who feels he has to go further into darkness to prove himself. They're all dealing with similar issues, it's just a matter of the paths taken or that will be taken, that will determine their ultimate fate. 

Evans proves to be a true leading man here, playing a character so well-intentioned and yet so complicated and flawed due to his past. The audience buys his earnestness to connect with his son and be a better man but also identifies with his stubbornness when it comes to realizing that everyone isn't ready for his redemption tour. He's all at once tough and emotionally sullen, particularly when it comes to his desire to know the kid he didn't get to have a relationship with. Their initial encounters prove to be interesting from the start, as Jimmy doesn't know who Adam is when he joins him in a pickup basketball game. They form a connection first as strangers and it's a relationship that becomes the emotional essence of the film, even if it could've used a bit more screentime to develop. By the time the secret is out, Pankow matches Evans in terms of intensity, curious as to why he didn't try to connect sooner. Their scenes together prove to be some of the best of the film. 

The marketing for 5lbs of Pressure does miss the mark a bit. The trailer makes it look like a classic shoot' em-up story and while there is some action as the expertly escalating climax draws to a close, the film is mostly a character-driven drama all about choices. About mean who are trying to fight against toxic traits and an environment trying to steal their souls. There is a surprising amount of depth beneath the surface, even if this is a story we have seen before.

Review by: Gaius Bolling

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