Review by Sean Boelman
Every week, it seems that there is a new crime thriller released straight-to-VOD that stars one of a rotating roster of B-movie actors, but it isn’t often that you get one with three of them. Michele Civetta’s The Gateway has a pretty solid ensemble, but the story is just as mediocre and predictable as one would expect.
The film follows a social worker who becomes involved in the lives of one of the families he was assigned to protect when the father is released from prison and draws them into his life of crime. It starts out as a sort-of blue-collar character study before turning into an on-the-tun thriller in the final act.
With a runtime of just over ninety minutes including credits, there’s not a whole lot of breathing room here. And given that the screenplay by Civetta, Alex Felix Bendaña, and Andrew Levitas mostly sticks to the bare minimum, it keeps everything very lean. That said, the tonal shift heading into the last third is jarring, as is the cut to credits which may be one of the weirdest in B-movie history.
Part of the issue with the movie is that it can’t seem to decide what it really wants to say. A title card at the end of the film implies that this is about the dangers of the foster care system, but this is a tertiary thread at best, explored only through expositional dialogue. As a whole, the movie feels rather empty, as if it has nothing going on in its head.
The film does deal pretty heavily in archetypes when it comes to supporting characters. A single mother dealing with a criminal ex as the father to her daughter is immediately sympathetic, although also one of the most textbook stock characters there is. The protagonist is more complex, although his arc goes in so many different directions that it isn’t effective.
Shea Whigham does some genuinely great work in his leading role. He’s someone that can elevate a subpar movie like this into something at least enjoyable to watch. Olivia Munn’s performance fits the movie, but is lacking in any sort of nuance or subtlety. And supporting turns from Bruce Dern, Frank Grillo, and Keith David are insignificant and forgettable.
There is at least a style to this film, which is more than can be said for a lot of its peers. It isn’t just a bland grittiness, as Civetta sets out to do some interesting things with the execution, especially in the final act. His swings miss more than they hit, but there’s still something to be said about his ambition.
The Gateway is a watchable crime thriller, although there are plenty of other movies that you have seen like it. The thing that makes it worth the rental fee is Shea Wigham’s strong performance, which keeps this from being entirely forgettable.
The Gateway is now on VOD.