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Brandon T. Jackson
In 1965, Rudy, a Midwestern high-school kid, moves to Albuquerque; lonely and friendless, he's attracted to Kit, slightly older, with a car, his own apartment, and spending money. Kit loves Elvis and loves the ladies; plus, he's a complete phony: his tan is fake, he wears lifts, he lies to girls, and he pretends to care about Rudy. Kit also shares a dark secret with two other devoted followers, Jimmy and Martha. He meets his match in Kirsten, a spoiled rich girl who gives as good as she gets. When she and a younger cousin disappear, Rudy must choose between loneliness and the law. Written by
Movies like "Dead Beat" stick out for their mediocrity. This is a film which establishes its main character Kit as a truly larger than life legend of sorts. Kit is given a brilliantly colorful world to come alive and is surrounded by highly competent actors to help. However, somewhere after his grand introduction, it starts to increasingly feel as if the movie is falling short of the sheer bigness the story requires.
Kit is played by the devilishly handsome Bruce Ramsay, who isn't given the meaty role he should have been able to run with. Instead, the character teeters on the edge of boldness when he should be brimming with life. I did like the idea of the Kit, though. He is a super-cool Elvis fanatic who intoxicates a whole town with his magical confidence and other-wordly charm. His face is so layered with makeup that he resembles something of a walking Ken doll, which is a perfect indication of the hollowness his charisma is compensating for. Ultimately, "Dead Beat" is about the dark side and eventual decay of an almost mystical small-town legend. Like his hero who held American culture in the palm of his hand only to disappear in heartbreaking tragedy, Kit loses himself amongst public adoration and personal despair.
This is the first and only movie by Adam Dubov. If only he had the confidence of his leading man! Dubov seems too cautious to harness such a bold story. He misses the mark on many scenes which should have been pushed to their fullest in terms of style and humor. Some scenes are just plain badly directed. Take the introduction of Kristen (played by the sexy Natasha Gregson Wagner) , the girl who ruins Kit, for example. She pulls a malicious prank on a lifeguard at a public pool, a scene which gives exposition to the only girl in town who could lead to Kit's downfall. The scene should have been classic, but is confusing and unfunny due to oblivious direction. Also, the movie builds up to what should have been a heart-wrenching climax. By the time it comes, the audience is too confused to know what to think about (or care about) an event which should have been riveting and extremely sad. A very well-written voice over ends the film, and serves as a reminder that this could have been a poignant and unforgettable film.
There are many recommendable values of the movie that also give hint to the fact that it could have been much greater. The production design is a knockout, especially considering the small budget. The world created for Kit is vibrant, appropriately archaic, detailed and original. There is an excellent use of color which gives the movie a romantic comic strip feel and breathes life into the constantly dull scenes. The supporting cast are talented and thankfully watchable. I loved Balthazar Ghetty's understated, grounded interpretation of Kit's somber sidekick Rudy. Natasha Gregson Wagner is pitch perfect as Kristen, using the character's bratty personality for humor instead of irritation.
"Dead Beat" deserves a bolder director. It is entertaining enough due to its few saving graces, but only amounts to a glimpse at a film that could have been an indie classic.
(2 out of 4)
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