The Word (2016)
Director: Gregory W. Friedle
Writer: Steve Grimaldi
Starring: Kevin O'Donnell, James Naughton, Kelly Au Coin, Maggie Lacy, Michael Shulman
This low-budget revenge thriller takes a confident stride into a vast sub-genre; it boasts good looks and substance, but takes things a little too slow.
The Word is the second feature-length indie film from director Gregory W. Friedle and the first from writer Steve Grimaldi and is a tremendously strong submission from two film-makers so early on in their careers. The film follows a devastated father who attempts to come to terms with the kidnap and murder of his young son at the hands of a mysterious cult. It is a hard-hitting story that poses a serious question that can be asked of all of us; what would you do to those who hurt your loved ones? It is not the first film to ask such a question, nor will it be the last, but The Word takes a far more measured and realistic approach than some of its more histrionic, revenge-orientated cousins.
While the questions are large, the scale on which they are asked is small, and The Word makes remarkable use of its extremely modest budget. It should be proud of the uncomplicated but high-quality camera work and decent audio which only suffers from a few minor volume fluctuations between cuts. The film's creators evidently wanted to produce something that looks and sounds as slick as possible, which they have certainly achieved.
While the production value is certainly commendable, The Word does suffer from some lethargy. It starts off well, providing some efficient exposition during the opening titles, before throwing us straight into the body of the story. Following this, however, the film rarely ventures beyond walking pace; some scenes linger a little too long, never allowing the film to gather any momentum. Instead, The Word takes a much more deliberate approach to the story. A lot of the film possesses the feel of a police-procedural TV show as opposed to a racing thriller, offering an exceptional level of detail which is normally only found in such shows. The story has evidently been well constructed and well researched, but would benefit from a slight kick up the arse. The pace does seriously pick up during the final 20 minutes, ending with a swift but shocking climax, providing some long-overdue energy.
The cast is committed, if a little wooden at times, and we are treated to some brief character development which typically works, but occasionally ventures towards being dubious. Kevin O'Donnell does a respectable job in the lead role, channelling his grief convincingly but his more vengeful side less so; his journey throughout the film sometimes feels a little rushed and awkwardly weighted. James Naughton does well as the collected FBI agent Mike Sheehy, as does Michael Shulman as his intellectual associate; both characters would also sit nicely within a police procedural, with each having a fundamental likability and an idiosyncratic feel. It is a diligent cast, one which exceeds the expectations of a film with this budget, but with no performances which will astonish.
Overall, The Word is a solid addition to the crime thriller genre. It is a polished and well put together piece of film, with a reliable cast who deliver but don't particularly inspire. The admirable attention to detail has compromised the film's impetus somewhat, but a gripping finale awaits those who see out this story of revenge until the end.
You can check it out for free on Amazon Prime: https://amzn.to/2KO5z0w and follow them on Twitter at @TheWordMovie.
In one line: The Word is an interesting and thought-provoking look at the impact of tragedy through the eyes of a devastated father, told with a well constructed but unhurried narrative, all on an effectively used budget.