The Pack (2011) Poster

(II) (2011)

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Compelling and frightening, with an important message
larry-41121 June 2008
"The Pack," directed by Alyssa Rallo Bennett and written by Alyssa and Gary O. Bennett, is a no-holds barred, stark look at the horrors of tobacco use and nicotine addiction. Compelling and frightening, "The Pack" is inspired by true events and dares to ask questions which remain unanswered to this day. Few films deserve the label "important," and this is one of them.

At its center is a portrait of a family torn apart by cancer. Nonsmoker Jack Jordan Sr. (Scott Bryce) has died of lung cancer at the age of 47, presumably brought on by 30 years of breathing his wife Eleanor's (Lucie Arnaz) secondhand smoke. An ambitious Assistant District Attorney (Carlos Leon) brings her to trial on murder charges, and 24-year-old son Jack Jr. (Ryan Homchick) is caught in the middle. The subsequent trial, the role young Jack plays in the proceedings, and the jury deliberations revolve around the questions of who knew what and when did they know it. Unspoken are the obvious political ramifications of the answers.

Arnaz gives a tour-de-force performance as the wife and mother whose only crime was that she was blissfully ignorant (or perhaps not) of the consequences of her actions. Homchick's Jack Jr. is like a puppy constantly on edge from having been beaten by one too many newspapers. The ensemble cast which makes up the jury, veterans as well as newcomers, inhabit their characters seamlessly. To single anyone out is a difficult task. Watch for Adam Ferrara as the maniacal Cassidy, who will not let go of his pro-tobacco stance, and Zach Galligan as Anson, a wide-eyed open book who can play the fool with ease.

"The Pack" cuts back and forth between the flashbacks of the family's past, the trial, and the jury deliberations. If told in linear fashion the film would likely have plodded along at an interminably slow pace. Instead, smart editing decisions placed each jump in time at precisely the right moment, while maintaining just enough consistency to avoid confusion. A careful balance needed to be struck, and kudos to editor Jeff Turboff for pulling it off masterfully. During the deliberation room scenes, cinematographer George Lyon cleverly used slow pans around the table to create a sense of movement where there was none. Occasional jump cuts sliced out the inevitable dead spots. The result puts still life into action -- no small feat.

The look of the film ironically contrasts the carefree days of the family's past with the sad reality of the present. Flashbacks are presented through the use of old home movies, bright and colorful and reflective of the myth we all bought into that secondhand tobacco smoke was benign. Scenes which take place in the present day are filled with blues and grays and give a dull, washed-out appearance, as though the air itself is affected by the cancer which struck down Jack Jordan Sr. The courthouse sets, particularly the jury deliberation room, are as cold and stark as can be.

A bit "Silkwood," "The Insider," and "12 Angry Men" all rolled into one, "The Pack" poses the question, "what if your behavior was legally accepted for dozens of years and all of a sudden it came into question?" The answer is not likely to change many viewers' minds about the dangers of smoking but, perhaps, it will.
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An extremely credible firm
prsahu30 March 2012
When UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School-Department of Pediatrics invited Director Alyssa Rallo Bennett to attend as a Guest Speaker for our Grand Rounds, all the attendees (physicians, staff, fellows, residents, and students) were amazed during the presentation about how this movie was extremely educational with a very specific message. It displayed the dangers of second hand smoke. The intensity of the movie was piercing when the biggest challenge was to prove whether the smoker could be held legally liable and directly responsible for the harm caused as a result of smoking. I strongly feel that this movie is a must see for children, parents, teachers, physicians, and lawmakers. An extremely credible film…
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Smoking/Non-Smoking Wins
windspooning1 July 2012
"Smoking / Non-Smoking," is a stunning drama with clear and resonant allusions to the film classic "12 Angry Men." Here we have angry jurors who carry into the case being deliberated elements of their own lives. As questions of guilt or innocence are argued—Who is responsible for this man's death of lung cancer, presumably by secondhand smoke?—we are drawn into larger and larger ones about responsibility. Stereotypes dissolve in the characterizations and complexities of the issues, which become an inextricable weaving of personal, social and political ones dramatically alive in the dialog.

There are adroit cuts between the jurors deliberations, the trial and the lives of all involved, along with rich manipulation of imagery. Excellently written, directed and acted, the jurors are strong, carefully etched characters. As in "12 Angry Men," exchanges between them move from jury room to the rest room and back. In one, we get keen-edged engagement; in the other, moments of off-hand conversation that reveal nuances of character. There is a sophisticated use of imagery by director Alyssa Bennett, with one apt and meaningful visual allusion to "12 Angry Men"—which I won't tell. "Smoking / Non-Smoking" is provocative and intelligent, side-steps moralizing and leaves us with essential, inescapable questions about responsibility for ourselves and each other.
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Excellent movie - sensitively done with a message that "burns"
as112523 August 2009
This is a movie that brings home the "burning" relationships between parents and children through the difficult issue of smoking. Who is to be blamed? How can a family survive the confrontation? It feels like a thriller but the message is all too clear! See it with your kids. Must see movie for the entire family. In these times, it can even be shown at middle and high schools when usually teens begin to experiment with smoking. And then, for the adults, it's always good to remember what happens when a "pack" of cigarettes can really "burn" not just the lungs but the very fabric of the family. Alyssa and Gary Bennett did a great job with the script and the actors are naturals. A wonderful and touching movie overall.

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Watch this film!
jenny-levison21 October 2008
The Pack achieves what all social issues films should -- the issue (in this case, tobacco use, and in particular second-hand smoke) -- is contained in the DNA of each and every frame, and yet the story transcends the issue and carries us away in its own right.

In part a court-room drama, and in part a family tragedy, The Pack is directed (by Alyssa Rallo Bennett) with great restraint and a steady hand. In fact, the ensemble cast is excellent, with Lucy Arnaz negotiating the murky territory in her roles as mother, housewife, and murder suspect.

As someone who has been closely affected by the devastating effects of lung cancer, I appreciate this film for standing strong on one of the burning issues of modern times.
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A new, poignant film about the dangers of smoking and it's consequences.
Paige21720 March 2012
This film is great educational tool for teachers and parents a like to show young people the dangers of smoking and how it not only effects you, but everyone around you as well. People never stop to think how their choices effect those around them until it is too late. This film brings that issue into the forefront and forces everyone to realize that dangerous behavior, including smoking and secondhand smoke, has consequences that not only effect you but others around you. It also makes people question are you to be blamed for hurting others with your behavior or should others be accountable as well for not taking their own health and safety into account.
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Thought Provoking!!! The Importance of Making Considerate Choices
dubdubmd19 March 2015
I had the opportunity to watch The Pack aka Smoking | Non-Smoking Trailer and Film!!! Very impressive!!!

The story was very thought provoking, interesting and well written!!! I Love the way the director approached it!!! Her ability to capture and personify the different emotional perspectives related to this complex controversial issue by utilizing a diverse group of characters was fantastic!!!

The educational and spiritual value of this story was extremely powerful!!! It truly highlighted the fact that it is tremendously important to carefully consider the consequences of our choices and actions in all situations, not only as it relates to us individually, but as it relates to others as well!!!

The film really captured my attention and I couldn't wait to see what the outcome was going to be!!!

It's definitely a 'must see' film for everyone!!!

Also, I Love the fact that the film was a 'family affair'!!!
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Very compelling film!
calltina22 October 2012
The Pack is a truly unique film.

It tackles tough subjects making the viewer question politics, big business and family dynamics.

The complex concept/controversy over smoking is brought beautifully to life with very compelling direction and performances.

I find it remarkable how the film is able to thoroughly engage us emotionally and intellectually. It makes us question our roles in society and our personal ethics.

It's a film that you will always remember.

You will find yourself taking about The Pack for years to come.
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Are we each other's keeper? Smoking/Non-Smoking is a provocative, uncompromising film.
tierney-406-388131 July 2012
I'm drawn to films that ask the big questions and am always disappointed when they end with the answers in shiny, prepackaged bundles, pocket sized so we can take them with us. Those tiny, feel good endings usually end up disintegrating in the laundry and are soon forgotten. What is, or rather, where is the point? Where is the edge that keeps us alert, provoking us to dig deeper into ourselves for answers? In my view, that's the point of art.

Smoking/Non-Smoking is a provocative, uncompromising film. If you allow yourself to experience, as I did, the seat-squirming discomfort of seeing up close an unflattering side of yourself in the very human, believable characters in the film. Who among us does not pass judgment on another's weakness, vanity, self-centeredness or self-righteousness? And here the lure to judge a self-centered wife and mother opens up a Pandora's's box of cultural vipers -- even with our best efforts to remain neutral and objective.

The film can be described as a tense, courtroom drama and morality tale about individual responsibility, the context of which is the accusation that the death of a husband was caused by the second hand smoke of the wife (the human inferno played with volatility and conviction by Lucie Arnaz). The twist, it's the 24 year son who is the accuser.

But all this is only to set the stage to ask profoundly deep questions about relationships within our families, our communities and in the courtrooms and deliberating halls of justice which are to act when we fail to do the "right" thing.This film dares to ask the question: How far can I carry my individual desires, pleasures and addictions? Through courtroom cross examinations and expert witness testimonies, intense arguments by a diversity of jurors with varying perspectives, life experiences and temperments, and private conversations between son and mother, lawyers and clients, we arrive at the limits of what our logical minds can hold and are wrenched by the emotions that surface when we are charged with no less than a deliberation on "love," especially a mother's love. Our relationships are a muddle --- not only for the family in the film, but glimpses into the lives of the jurors show that they, too, have their vulnerabilities and challenges.

The integrity of the film is marked by keeping our toes to the fire. The scenes are almost all shot in interior rooms with windows that don't open, close-ups, bathrooms in which we are looking at the characters' reflections in the mirrors, and bedroom scenes --- all suggestive of the intimacy of human relationships and the pain, joy and suffering we can cause one another. The opening scene is a tender one of a mother (one of the jurors) and her daughter and is repeated again at the end. This is an ever so light brush stroke which demonstrates the potential and possibility for all of us to care for one another. There are a number of surprises along the way I won't give away. Go see it and be challenged. It's worth it!
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Timeless and Intriguing
vyampol15 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It's rare that you see a film that deals with an "issue" yet transcends that issue by going deeper and wider to the interpersonal relationships that underlie and surround it making the film timeless and intriguing. The film "Smoking | Non-Smoking" is not only the first I've every seen or heard of that deals with the issue of second-hand smoke, but draws the viewer in via dealing with how everyone is responsible in a deep and character-driven way. The film avoids the being preachy by allowing its characters that have very real and varied perspectives to dramatically collide. The film is also so much more than a courtroom drama, as it successfully weaves the personal lives of the Jordan family exceptionally played by Lucie Arnaz, Scott Bryce, and Ryan Homchick via home-style movies and scenes in and around the court and jury scene.. The screenplay is well-researched, naturalistic and dramatic and the direction is seamlessly orchestrated amongst the twelve jurors, including outstanding performances by Adam Ferrara, Jennifer McCabe, Molly Culver, Angie Martinez and Zach Galligan, key players and supporting characters, Elizabeth Moss. Alyssa Rallo Bennett has effortlessly brought to life a film that is inspired by true stories and is both emotionally compelling and intellectually stimulating. Most importantly "Smoking | Non-Smoking moved me, and inspired passionate discussion amongst my family and friends.
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