The second feature endeavor from writer/director Zak Forsman is, like his previous film HEART OF NOW, an intense character piece (this time disguised as an action thriller about cocaine smuggling). DOWN AND DANGEROUS, based on the experiences of Zak’s own father, is a fantastic example of true independent filmmaking. Crowdfunded on Kickstarter to the tune of $38,051, Forsman has proved yet again to be a master of the filmmaking trade by creating a low budget film that is on par production value-wise with many of the films recently coming out of Hollywood.
DOWN AND DANGEROUS’ lead actor, John T. Woods plays smuggler Paul Boxer. A man who lives by his own set of rules, and works alone. This premise would be cliche in the hands of other directors, but Forsman and Woods are able to dig deeper into this character to create an anti-hero that audiences will empathize with, and even root for. Yes, you will root for a man to smuggle cocaine into the United States for a drug lord (played coldly and calculatingly by Ernest Curcio). Boxer seeks counsel from jailed smuggler Charles (Judd Nelson in a very understated but powerful cameo role), and along the way Boxer is confronted by dirty DEA officer Henry Langlois (brilliantly portrayed by Ross Marquand). It’s easy to compare this film to HEAT, TRAFFIC, and BLOW in some aspects, but consider the films that you’re comparing DOWN AND DANGEROUS to and that will give you an idea as to the quality and care that was given in the movie.
Zak Forsman knows how to make the most out of locations, resources, and his actors, playing to all of their respective strengths. From gunfights and car chases down city streets to sprawling mansions in the hills, to rusted out train yards on the US/Mexico border, Forsman creates a palette of locales for his story to expand out to. John T. Woods is an understated leading man who should be considered the break-out star of the film and another special mention of Ross Marquand should be given, as his character portrayal is as deep and layered as similar characters in movies like DONNIE BRASCO and THE DEPARTED. The weakest link in this film from an acting perspective is the lead female, Paulie Rojas. That isn’t to say that her acting wasn’t good, it was, but her character seemed to be forced into the script, only giving Boxer something to fight for, or to rescue. She really just ends up being a hindrance to a story already filled with conflict.
The visuals are great and the sound design really works well, especially when paired with a pumping score provided by longtime SABI collaborator, Deklun. The score and music in this film are more reminiscent of DRIVE than other modern action movies. It relies less on hero moments and stings and rather takes you on a techno/synth journey that feels more like an 80’s movie than anything else. The editing all around, provided by Jamie Cobb, really nails the pacing during the action scenes, but does seem to plod a little bit during the more dramatic or character-driven scenes.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if DOWN AND DANGEROUS nabbed a decent distribution deal from one of the more mainstream indie houses (Magnolia and the like). The quality of the film speaks for itself and at the very least it should have a healthy life on the film festival circuit. Given the budget on the film, it should be easy for the director to turn a profit and see if lightning can strike a third time get started on his next feature.
DOWN AND DANGEROUS Review
Always one step ahead of the Feds, Paul Boxer is the most inventive and principled smuggler in the trade, never needed to carry guns. But someone is killing off his co-workers, Paul is forced setting his principles to a test.