Sean Kirkpatrick’s crime drama Cost Of A Soul won the “Big Break Movie Contest,” which gives first-time feature filmmakers a shot at distribution in 50 AMC Theaters. And give the judges credit: They didn’t pick some wan relationship dramedy, littered with big-name actors looking to boost their indie cred. Cost Of A Soul is a scrappy little beast, full of unfamiliar faces and tough-guy attitude, shot in stylishly desaturated color-tones. It’s a lousy movie, but it has spunk.
Cost Of A Soul stars Chris Kerson and Will Blagrove as soldiers who return from Iraq to their respective run-down Philadelphia neighborhoods and discover that life hasn’t changed much while they were away. Kerson has a young, wheelchair-bound daughter now, but his old boss in the rackets still expects him to be a top enforcer, to pay back old debts. And Blagrove finds out that not only is the drug trade still ravaging his block, but his older brother has become a major dealer, while his younger brother is a potential recruit. As the heroes’ worlds get closer to colliding, Kirkpatrick makes the point that we have our own war zones in this country, though the media rarely reports on them.
Cost Of A Soul’s cast is surprisingly strong, and its point of view is admirably hard-edged, but Kirkpatrick’s dialogue is absolutely awful, and his direction tends toward the maudlin. Cost Of A Soul was shot in real, grubby-looking Philly locations, but little about the script has the verisimilitude of its setting. This is sub-dime-store-novel stuff, the kind of movie where an undercover cop uses his dying breath to read his murderer his rights, and one where the soundtrack shifts from gritty guitar stings to twinkly piano when Kerson sees his handicapped little girl for the first time. There’s a mildly unexpected wrinkle in a subplot that sees Blagrove trying to make it as a jazz saxophonist, but it isn’t enough to make the film feel personal. Mostly, Kirkpatrick sticks with the presets on the “can’t escape The Life” story-generator.