Big Heart City

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Venue: Los Angeles Film Festival.

“Big Heart City,” which had its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is the epitome of a scrappy independent film. While it's too ragged to make much of a dent beyond the festival circuit, it introduces a talented new director, Ben Rodkin, and leading actor, Shawn Andrews. Andrews plays Frank, a drifter who appears at a Los Angeles warehouse looking for a job. While he claims to have been away for six months on a fishing gig, we quickly learn that he was actually in prison and that most of the stories he tells his new boss, Larry (Seymour Cassel), are complete fabrications.

The film is essentially no more-and no less-than a character study of this wounded, delusional loner. While we sense that Frank is unstable, his vulnerability balances his slightly menacing aura. Andrews is inherently likable, and he has the rare gift of making his feelings completely transparent. Andrews has an easy rapport with veteran actor Cassel, who helped to invent American independent cinema when he worked with John Cassavetes. Cassel doesn't have a huge part but makes the most of every moment he's on screen. The byplay between these two gives the movie its pungency.

Other actors don't have as much of a chance to shine. Desi Lydic has a dual role as Frank's ex-girlfriend and a prostitute who ministers to him, but she doesn't register very strongly in either role.

The film was shot on 16 mm, and technically, it is just barely competent. Yet it remains watchable, thanks to the graceful performances of two actors from different generations. You get caught up in the friendship of this pair of sad sacks.

Production companies: A Film Crash Presentation, Blue Egg Productions.

Cast: Shawn Andrews, Seymour Cassel, Desi Lydic, Jake Alston, Theo Carlson. Director-Screenwriter: Ben Rodkin. Producer: Peter Paul Basler. Executive producer: Matthew Harrison. Director of photography: Peter J. Scalettar. Music: Mick Turner, Jim White. Editors: Ben Rodkin, Johannes Weuthen.

No MPAA rating, 84 minutes.


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