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    Phantom Halo (2015): Movie Review

    “A Shakespeare-meet-Tarantino family saga/crime drama.” 

    In times of crisis, to whom do we turn to? For most, it will be to some kind of god. But in Antonia Bogdanovich’s directorial debut film called Phantom Halo, a boy channels his favorite comic book action hero’s superpowers to protect his family.

    Two brothers frequent Santa’s Monica’s Third Street Promenade every day. While younger brother Samuel Emerson (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) adeptly delivers Shakespearean soliloquies to passers-by, handsome Beckett (Luke Kleintank) is quite busy picking the pockets of mesmerized audience. That is the brothers' daily routine; all in order to pay off the rent and eat for the day. Bad dad Warren (Sebastian Roche) is an ex-actor whose delusions he has passed on to his sons. Abusive drunk and gambler, he has piled up his debts, particularly to casino owner Roman (Gbenga Akinnagbe) who has then turned his attention to Warren’s two sons.

    An opportunity to amass large sum of money presents itself to Beckett in the person of Little Larry (Jordan Dunn). A dolt but sleazy geek, Larry has mastered the craft of creating counterfeit bills. Together, the two produce folds of money, purchase a custom-made Bentley and scam the scammer and crime boss Smashmouth (Tobin Bell). Beckett also falls for Larry’s mother Ms. Rose (Rebecca Romjin). But when Larry makes a stupid mistake of secretly keeping the fake bills inside the Emerson’s house, a violent and blood-spattered culmination will take place that shall change the lives of the two brothers. 

    Phantom Halo is fast-paced with plenty of surprises and sensitive moments. The brothers’ care for each other, how they look after one another, is sweet and infectious. Unlike other crime dramas, the film’s caper is less elaborate and crooked. Anyone can easily follow the plot, whether one has Sherlock Holmes’ mind or not. Analysis of story is quite simple, as the film is more geared toward developing its characters.

    However, the film is lost in many respects. Wanting to be a lot of things, it strives hard to be clever but ends up looking messy and theatrical.  It aims to be a Shakespearean tragedy but its crime elements are weak and conventional. Its Shakespearean voice-overs also sound showy and out of place. On the other hand, some aspects of the film are deficient resonant of Tarantino. For one, its Tarantino-styled musical score is quite overkill and pompous, such as that in Ms. Rose’s temptation of Beckett. Another is its brutal and witty conclusion where everyone dies except for a few handfuls. However, it lacks the integrity and wow factor that Tarantino gives.

    The film also has plenty of inconsistent details. If Beckett has already fleeced the people’s pockets, where do they get the money they pay Samuel after his performance? How does a dolt like Larry create perfect counterfeits? Has he read some kind of “How to Make Fake Bills for Dummy”? After cutting his finger, why would the Korean girl suddenly get warm and friendly to Samuel? And why would she give him an original 1961 publication of Phantom Halo comic book that is worth a treasure?

    Thomas Brodie-Sangster stands out the most in the film as the sweet and loyal Samuel. With his boyish doll face, he gives such a powerful and sensitive performance. He delivers money-worthy street Shakespearean declamations, as well as go-go mighty Phantom Halo dialogues. Romjin as the seductive Ms. Rose is also a refreshing sight in the male-dominated movie. While Kleintank and Dunn are just average, Roche is quite funny and suffering.

    With its cluttered plot and sub-stories, Phantom Halo manages to merge them into an exhilarating fusion towards the end. It is in fact sweet, touching and satisfying. Yet, its Tarantino-style elements are obvious and unsettling, and its Shakespearean vibe is pretentious.


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