Review by Jonathan Berk
Finestkind is the newest film from writer/director Brian Helgeland (42, A Knight's Tale). The twisting of the plot is used to heighten the stakes multiple times throughout the film, making it feel like a made-for-TV movie. However, the characters and their relationship struggles make you care enough for them to get you invested. This is backed by solid performances from the film's cast to push the movie into worth-watching territory.
Charlie (Toby Wallace) has just finished college and is ready for law school. But, this summer, he wants to work with his estranged half-brother, Tom (Ben Foster), on his fishing boat in Boston. These brothers have to work on their issues while one thing after another goes wrong, complicating their lives.
Wallace has had a big year, also appearing in The Royal Hotel and The Bikeriders (now scheduled for June 2024). While he’s been acting for a while, his role in 2019's Babyteeth made him stand out. Wallace can bring genuine pathos to his characters, even when they may seem a bit despicable. That ability makes us feel for what Charlie is going through, even if the situations on screen are slightly underdeveloped or melodramatic.
Jenna Ortega (Wednesday, X) plays a love interest to Charlie, who also doubles as a type of femme fatale. Her life seems far less privileged than Charlie's, and their initial interactions are a bit tense. However, the talent of Ortega and Wallace helps us root for these two and their strained connection.
Foster has taken some roles that lead to big swings, like in Alpha Dog or The Punisher. However, his roles in movies like Leave No Trace and Hell or High Water demonstrate he is capable of playing quieter and subtler parts. He blends these two sides of his style for this movie. Sometimes, his performance is mostly internal, and the audience ponders what exactly he will do. Then, there are moments in the film where his character is angry or out of control, and that other style of Foster’s shines. This big shifts in character could feel out of place, but in this instance it fits the film. Of course, those big swings may reveal more about the film itself than Foster's character.
At the heart, Finestkind is a family drama about two brothers trying to come to terms with their relationship. There are two fathers, Tommy Lee Jones playing the remorseful father of Tom, and Tim Daly playing Charlie’s pushy dad. They represent these generational ideas pushed on the younger ones. The film questions the notion of masculinity, especially with the Boston backdrop. Those dramatic moments can be affecting, and the performances add to that. Then, the film ties in the crime aspect, and it often feels a little goofy.
Finestkind is worth checking out. The performances are good, and there is enough of a Fast and Furious family vibe that makes it enjoyable. While not all of the crime elements of the story work, it builds to a pretty powerful ending. Some audiences may feel the movie is a bit too saccharine in its final moments. However, the only way to truly know if it works for you is to watch it till the end.
Finestkind will be streaming on Paramount+ on December 15.