This low-budget indie was the sleeper hit of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Dillon Tucker gives cocaine-addled protagonist Isaac Nelson a can’t-look-away urgency that permeates the angsty urban mise en scene of this twenty-something LA nightmare. As his best friend James, Jeffery Baker delivers a captivating and equally credible portrayal of the put-upon besty of Isaac the gambler-liar-drug addict and ultimate victim. This film would do for cocaine what Pineapple Express did for marijuana—whatever that was—but cocaine, as everyone with even a casual acquaintance knows, is far more rapid and ruthless. The bumbling, head bobbling, spastic-dancing day-for-night of it is all too readily captured by Tucker’s demonic performance. He fights for every frame with everything he’s got, going from his Ray-bans to his baggie and back again as many as a half-dozen times in a single scene.
The supporting players, including a memorable Kristin Erickson as Sara, Jimmy’s girlfriend and Isaac’s cousin, and a vibrant team of Vegas working girls played by Leigh Anne Bush and Virginia Cassavetes. Together they add even more scene-by-scene momentum to this runaway train of a story. OK, fine, there are some loose ends, and the exit strategy of the survivors is more deus ex machina than dues paid for deeds done. The feeling That Side of a Shadow leaves one with—powerful yearning foreshadowing big things to come—may well apply to the creative team, if not to all the deep-end characters the film so effectively portrays.