<em>That Side of a Shadow</em>

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 L.A. 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, add even more scene-by-scene momentum to this runaway train of a story. Okay, 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.


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