What doesn't kill us makes stronger sure. At first strength and survival may come as the ultimate gift in the end of a difficult ordeal. However in the end, what does this concept truly do for us? Does it change us for the better, or for the worse. These questions come with 2 different answers. Paulie McDougan (Hawke) and Brian Riley (Ruffalo), two thugs from the rough streets of South Boston, have been living the very life of crime that constantly plague's Boston from their years of childhood, to their true moments of their independent definitions as men. Director Brian Goodman, a known felon in his days of youth, has given viewers both a harsh reminder of his past, as well as a lesson in making the right choices, even when having very little to start with. Working here and there for the very scum that run the small stuff in Boston, Paulie and Brian continue in what they believe their own two timing, making worthless sums of money for their mentor of a boss, as well as this film's director Pat Kelly (Goodman). In the very few scores they make on the side, viewers are introduced to the very horrors of quality theft, drug addiction, as well the social destruction the life of crime brings towards the criminal's family. Ethan Hawke is brilliant as always playing a very fun character, exhibiting anger, impulsive anxiety to acquire better, and even so much as showing an undying loyalty to the man who is as close a brother to him as any, Brian. As Brian, Ruffalo gives a truly magnifying performance as a man who's whole life was crime, booze, and self destruction through the actions of his job, or just his nature to stay high and hooked. As the victim, and eventual role model for most addicts, and criminal looking for a fresh start, Brian's life is seen in two different view points as the film's introduction is narrated in his own grief stricken anxiety to make a choice. It all starts with an armored car robbery, and then goes back all the way to the very years of their youth, to the even tougher times to face. We viewers will see the lessons brought to attention about addiction, commitment to ones family, and the very struggles of deciding what is best. Brian's life has been a screaming nightmare, as he not only suffers from the morally questionable life of crime, but his very tendency to continuously destroy the life he started with is wife Stacy (Peet) and his 2 boys is what truly directs his character. His addiction to crack cocaine, and his own job were what brought him into the slammer, and 5 years of it brought the very promises men like him keep today. He stayed sober, following Paulie to the life he himself continued to live, only to witness and not act. He faced the many troubles we as honest citizens have struggled with, and often felt tempted towards avoiding, such as payable bills, and setting mature examples for the kids, even when the going got tough and it felt pointless. I say this to be true. An honest life is not a load of bull. It's a test of how much we are willing to take in this life, so we can finally say in the end that we did that, and we stayed strong through all those tough times. As fictional, and merely example based as these characters may be, Director Goodman is showing viewers a lesson of how much more rewarding it is to survive honestly, than it is to live the shameful ways of crime. As we are brought back to the very beginning scene of the armored car robbery, we see to the end as it fails miserably, destroying Brian's life even more, only to sooner realize it is but a thought in the back of his head, as much as it at first seemed like his latest temptation. Alas, the reformed felon throws it all away, living life to the best concerns of those he truly loves, and for what it truly defines him as a man. Paulie on the other hand didn't turn out so lucky. It's interesting isn't it? Whenever were sure of something we're going to do, we don't hesitate, believing we have no choice? Paulie sure thought that, and in the end he paid for it with the remaining years of his life, unlike the better half of this criminally charismatic crew. Directed by Brian Goodman, as well as written by him and Donnie Wahlberg , "What Doesn't Kill You" is a brilliant crime film, using various elements of the South Boston hood to specifically show viewers that even when times are tough it's the choices we make in those close corners that truly make us the people we look at in the mirror every morning, afternoon, and night.
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