With Phantom Halo, first-time director Antonia Bogdanovich has created a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, a genre mishmash cobbled together from the refuse of disparate visual and narrative modes. The filmmaker schizophrenically combines rap-video aesthetics and characters seemingly pulled from softcore pornography and children’s comic books with a plot appropriated from the British “angry young man” films of the 1950s: In contemporary Los Angeles, a down-and-out Shakespearean actor and his two sons turn to a life of crime to pay their debts to several gangsters and loan sharks. It’s a trivial fantasy of working-class artists struggling to survive in the lower depths of urban America that perpetually strains for credibility. While Samuel (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) earns money by reciting Shakespeare to mildly interested audiences at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, his older brother, Beckett (Luke Kleintank), steals the onlookers’ wallets. Yet no one ever notices that their wallets are missing, even though they would presumably have to take them out to give Samuel their money. To escape his troubles, Samuel reads comic books about a superhero called the Phantom Halo, whose cartoonish heroics start to bleed into Samuel’s violent world, which takes on an increasingly caricatured quality. Characters repeatedly get up from vicious bludgeonings and go about their business as if nothing had happened. The silliness of the film’s incessant violence is particularly grating because it has no consequences, undermining any sympathy the audience might have for the characters’ tribulations.
- ARC Entertainment
- 87 min
- Antonia Bogdanovich
- Antonia Bogdanovich, Anne Heffron
- Luke Kleintank, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Sebastian Roché, Jordan Dunn, Tobin Bell, Rebecca Romijn, Gbenga Akinnagbe
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