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Homewrecker -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- "Homewrecker" is an example of what two manic brothers with little money and a lot of imagination can produce. Written and directed by Brad Barnes and Todd Barnes, it's a bumpy joyride through Manhattan and Brooklyn with a good guy out of jail on work release and a dizzy dame. A frothy, rough-around-the-edges item to be sure, but the film could be an enjoyable night out -- or in -- for an audience not expecting a spectacle.

Based on a true story, except when it's not, as the credits tell us, the film opens with some scratchy black and white footage featuring a heavyset man talking about his days as a locksmith while out of jail on work release. This presumably is the inspiration for the story to follow.

Mike's (Anslem Richardson) day starts in lockup and peeing in a cup. There is no way for him to know it will end with a screwball adventure through the city. His main goal in life is to stay out of jail after four years for selling coke and get back with his girlfriend (Michelle Krusiec). Then along comes Margo (Ana Reeder).

They meet cute, sort of. She is locked out of her apartment and Mike gets the call. After cracking the lock, Margo goes in, sniffs around and proceeds to bust up the place. Finally, Mike realizes it's not her apartment but instead she's casing her boyfriend's house because she suspects him of having an affair.

Fearful of getting into trouble and loosing his freedom, Mike has to almost drag her out. But she's so distraught, and Mike is such a decent sort, he drives her over to the art gallery that her boyfriend Charles (Stephen Rannazzisi) owns to basically spy on him. One thing leads to another, and before long Mike, a working class black man, is in a yuppie bistro sitting next to Charles eating a beet salad and trying to get him to spill the beans.

When Mike comes out, having gotten a few morsels of information, his van is gone. Panic sets in. He goes back to the locksmith shop where his boss Jimmy (Cesar De Leon) gives him a bad time and grounds him, until Margo shows up and uses her feminine wiles. The adventure is back on, to an elderly drug dealer in Brooklyn (Mary Beth Peil) and back to Margo's apartment down under the Manhattan Bridge. There the story takes a not totally unexpected turn.

Margo is a hard person to say no to and the plot revolves around her fast-talking, obsessive energy. She's an irresistible force field. A tough feat to pull off, but Reeder, a New York stage actress with a Madeline Kahn rubber-face, is up to the task. She's so confounding you can't take your eyes off of her, which is a good thing as the story lags during long scenes in the van as Margo and Mike banter about this and that. Richardson also has a great, if more subdued, presence that makes his character sympathetic and convincing as a person to root for.

In fact, the Barnes brothers, who come out of a New York filmmaking collective group called the Institute of Magical Dance, have assembled a very good crew of stage actors and comedians to realize their low-budget romp. Everyone, including cinematographer Daniel Vecchione, production designer Carmen Cardenas and composer Todd Snider, seem attuned to this style of guerrilla filmmaking and executing the brothers' manic vision of a city where anything can happen-and often does.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival

Production company: Spare Key Productions, Diversified Film Group
Cast: Anslem Richardson, Ana Reeder, Stephen Rannazzisi, Mary Beth Peil, Cesar De Leon, Michelle Krusiec
Directors: Brad Barnes, Todd Barnes
Writers: Brad Barnes, Todd Barnes, Sophie Goodhart
Producers: Bard Barnes, Todd Barnes
Executive producers: Todd McDonald, Nicole Vodrazka, Gregory P. Shockro, Richard Selby
Director of photography: Daniel Vecchione
Production designer: Carmen Cardenas
Music: Todd Snider
Costumes: Tania Bijlani
Editor: Tom Griffin, Todd Barnes
Sales: Steven Beer: Greenberg Traurig
No rating, 88 minutes