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10 Cent Pistol (Review)

A strong debut from writer-director Michael C. Martin

by Nav Qateel

Two LA criminals are forced to pull a dangerous heist in order to get out from under a debt owed to gangland boss, Punchy (Joe Mantegna).

Easton (Damon Alexander) and Jake (JT Alexander) have been buddies for years. Easton has the brawns whereas Jake has the smarts, and the pair have successfully maneuvered the LA underworld as a team. No one can make any moves without Punchy's blessing and obligatory 50% cut, which is exactly what Easton tries to do. Punchy orders Easton to hold up the Russian mob as his way of making restitution for going behind his back, but things begin to spiral out of control.

Michael C. Martin first hit it big after penning the successful crime-thriller Brooklyn's Finest back in 2009. Five years later, Martin decided to helm his own script, 10 Cent Pistol, proving, not only that he wasn't simply a one-hit wonder with Brooklyn's Finest, but that he can direct as well as he can write.

10 Cent Pistol
Written & Directed by Michael C. Martin
Cast Jena Malone, JT Alexander, Damon Alexander
Release Date 24 July 2015
Nav's Grade: B

10 Cent Pistol is told using a mix of clever flashbacks and monologues, as we're given some tantalizing scenes, like Easton lying on his belly having bullets dug out of his back, then some exposition to help explain just how things got to that stage. This is a technique that we've seen many times before, but rarely do first-time directors pull it off as well as Martin clearly has. It's also used to build up to all the nice plot twists Martin has written into his crime yarn, and these are twists you won't see coming until you're allowed in on the secret.

Other than Jena Malone, who plays wannabe actress Danneel, and gangster movie royalty Joe Mantegna, obviously, the two leads were complete unknowns to me. JT Alexander has been acting for over 10 years, while brother Damon Alexander is a relative newcomer, with 10 Cent Pistol only his third movie role. The smaller roles are taken by a host of familiar faces, and each actor puts in solid, even performances. Although Jena Malone almost stole every scene she was in, the Alexander brothers easily held their own. This is as much a testament to the skill of writer-director Martin, as it is to the cast themselves.

Martin managed a fine balancing act with 10 Cent Pistol, because having complete creative control over a crime-thriller of this nature, means you have to know when to draw the line with your own material. Too many get carried away when put in this situation, leaving the audience unable to penetrate the complexities of the plot. Not so here, as the story moves along at a brisk enough pace, and the tension is allowed to build up steadily.

A special mention must go to the fine photography of Michael Fimognari (Oculus) and Jim Dooley's score, both of which helped elevate Martin's vision. There was also a cheeky moment right at the very end that I thought was quite brilliant, and summed up the way I felt after watching this exciting thriller.

A must-see for crime movie fans.

10 Cent Pistol will be released on DVD by PHASE4FILMS on 18 August 2015

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