Arlington native Blake Calhoun appears to be on his way. His action-packed thriller and third feature Killing Down had its world premiere earlier this month in Dallas at the 36th annual USA Film Festival (sponsored by giants IFC and Sundance Film Channel), and of all the entries, his is hardest to forget.
And not just because his 110-minute film was shot in and around Fort Worth and stars two Fort Worth natives, Matt Tompkins and Julio Cedillo. Tompkins plays Steven Down, a twentysomething suffering from a severe case of survivor guilt. At the beginning of the movie, we see him sitting alone in a drab hotel room in 1993, having flashbacks to an incident that occurred six years earlier in Nicaragua. As he, his girlfriend, and several villagers were farming, a group of camouflaged soldiers raided the area and massacred everyone except Down. The gun-toting heavy (Cedillo) captures Down and interrogates/tortures him for days.
Accounting for about the first 25 minutes of the film, these scenes are craftily edited and performed. An industrial-music soundtrack perfectly parallels the film’s frantic heartbeat, and Tompkins has the look of an unstoppable hero. A hairdresser in the film tells him he looks “like Henry Rollins, post-Black Flag,” and she’s right. He could totally handle a lead role in any major Hollywood testosterone-fueled throwdown.
By the movie’s midpoint, however, the story starts to unravel. Back in Central America, we discover, Down isn’t just some innocent do-gooder: He’s actually a U.S. government mole. We also learn that Cedillo’s character isn’t just some fascist commie goon. He’s an Israeli operative named Oscar Perez, the same Oscar Perez who runs a security consulting firm called the Maya Corporation, the same firm to which we later see an older Down applying for a job. The ins and outs of the relationship between the two men are hard to follow, and the tiny sub-plots do nothing but slow down the initially brisk pace.
Calhoun definitely has talent, and with a little help in the editing room, he could be a force.
Starring Matt Tompkins, Julio Cedillo, and Burton Gilliam. Written by Steve Mahone and Blake Calhoun. Directed by Blake Calhoun. Not Rated.