Film Review: Phantom Halo

This far too busy stew of various bad ideas, peppered with ridiculously overt violence, never seems to quite decide what it wants to be.
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Meet the Emersons of Los Angeles. Warren (Sebastian Roché, hamming up a storm) was once a gifted Shakespearean actor but is now severely in debt due to his addictions to booze and gambling. His sons, Samuel (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and handsome Beckett (Luke Kleintank), struggle in their own ways to provide for themselves and keep their useless father afloat, Mom having split many years ago.

Drunkenly coached by Warren, Samuel—obsessed with the comic book Phantom Halo, about superheroes who have mud-engendered powers—earns coins by spouting Shakespearean monologues on the streets of Santa Monica. Beckett goes a dicier route, eventually making counterfeit money with his buddy Larry (Jordan Dunn) to pay off Warren's debt to vicious crime boss Roman (Gbenga Akinnagbe). Suffice it to say that everything goes awry.

Antonia Bogdanovich, the daughter of director Peter (who is a producer here), directed and co-wrote this wildly veering hodgepodge of would-be sensitive family saga, interjected comic-strip jolts and conventional crime drama. Visually, she shows a little something of her father's filmmaking skills (which flowered early with The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, and then somehow wilted), but her clumsy script defeats her utterly—the Beckettian obviousness of the boys' names rather says it all—and it climaxes in an excessively bloody finale involving all of the characters, which is just one more example of Quentin Tarantino's influence gone horribly wrong. Plying the genre with the heaviest of hands, she and co-writer Anne Heffron seem staunchly determined to get as un-girly as possible but just overdo it, as when a Korean girl suddenly slices off Samuel's finger. (The wackadoodle screenplay has them subsequently falling in serious like.)

The only real cast standouts in Phantom Halo are doll-faced Brodie-Sangster, who somehow manages to give a sensitive performance, and Rebecca Romijn, who brings her considerable blonde beauty as Larry's too-nubile mother. Although her role isn't much, her presence is very welcome in the midst of all this noisy testosterone.

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