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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Devotion

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Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English/Math tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Death does indeed come in threes in director Chris Gabriel’s second feature-length film, Devotion, which debuted on June 4th at the Brenden Theater in the Palms Resort and Casino.

 

 

Las Vegas-based Mercenary Films, Gabriel, and writer/actor/co-editor Will Edwards (S4) have crafted a skillfully composed psychological thriller that has more twists than a paperclip in the hands of a hypochondriac.

 

Opening with a montage of two happily married couples (and best friends), subsequent events take a nightmarish turn as Marcus Graham (Edwards) returns home from work to find that his wife and unborn child have been killed in a hit and run accident.  Graham’s best friend, Derrick Marshall (Henry Clarke) knows of a way to undo the tragic events, promising that if Graham follows instructions, he’ll get his wife Sydney (Barbara Stewart) and unborn child back.

 

Graham must contact a mysterious man who assures the grief-stricken husband and father-to-be that the return of his loved ones can be easily accomplished – after Graham completes three homicidal acts on an unrelated trio of pre-selected victims in wildly different circumstances

 

The deal with the devil, in this case named Oz (Numa Brelet) takes on a new twist as reality and hallucination become enmeshed.  Graham finds his morality tested, but his devotion ultimately overpowers any hesitation.  People do indeed perish by his hand, but his eyes are always on the (promised) prize.

 

His wife, Sydney appears to him periodically in a hazy twilight imagery that could be brought on by exhaustion or dream state.  It is enough to keep Graham on track with his gruesome assignments.  That, and physical threats from Oz, who literally pops into the bereaved man’s life at unexpected intervals and bares his teeth in ghastly smiles that easily morph into grimaces.  Putting Graham in a choke hold also aids in his efforts to coerce the increasingly reluctant hitman to continue on his destructive path.

 

The resulting murders are investigated by Detective John Wilkins (Rob Watts) and Detective Karen Moss (Kerry Ann Loomis), who, with the aid of a homeless man (Madd Kd) track down the elusive vigilante.  As Graham’s world closes in around him, he discovers a correlation between his predicament and his best friend’s involvement in past and current events.  Devotion could easily be re-titled as “The Domino Effect.”

 

As he did in S4, Chris Gabriel rounds up impressive talent to bring his sophomore effort to the screen.  Henry Clarke’s dramatic composure adds believability to the seemingly impossible series of events.  Will Edwards turns in an intense and conflicted performance as a good man faced with only bad choices, his judgment clouded by pain and loss.

 

Numa Brelet, as Oz, is a slick, sleek embodiment of evil, sometimes unintentionally funny in his portrayal but mostly chillingly effective.  Oz is a suave demon even through hissed threats and a smiling sneer. He chides Graham about his (God-given) gift of free will with all the glee of a spoiled childe used to getting his way.

 

Barbara Stewart, as Graham’s ghost wife turns in a haunting (no pun intended) performance that walks a tightrope between reality and dream-state hallucination.  Her character provides a reminder that conscience and morality accompany one’s acts, no matter the circumstance.

 

William Santiago’s pensive soundtrack punctuates the suspense with an atmospheric rhythm that’s equivalent to seeing an intruder’s shoes behind the living room curtains when you think you’re home alone.  Slow motion and recurring shots drive home the anxiety even further (Gabriel and Edwards co-edited, and know how to hold the viewer’s attention with a deliberate and lingering camera).

 

The word devotion denotes a willingness to sacrifice for love.  The high cost of such an emotion is tragic to witness but a cinematic triumph for Gabriel and Edwards as they hone their craft.  As the lyrics of the Hall & Oates song (She’s Gone) declare, “I’d pay the devil to replace her.”

 

Devotion illustrates that sometimes you get what you wish for; and sometimes that is punishment enough.