The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD/DVD] - THE GATEWAY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD/DVD] - THE GATEWAY

the gateway review
social worker becomes personally invested in the plight of a young girl in his care when her dangerous father is released from prison.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Michele Civetta

Starring: Shea Whigham, Olivia Munn, Frank Grillo, Bruce Dern, Keith David, Taegen Burns, Taryn Manning

the gateway poster

Had The Gateway been released a quarter century ago, then director Michele Civetta‘s (writing contributions also from Alex Felix Bendaña and Andrew Levitas) hysterically hard-boiled melodrama of an indurated social worker doing what a man’s gotta would perhaps be one of those exciting ‘grindhouse’ footnotes you hear cineastes wax lyrical about on podcasts and then fruitlessly spend an evening attempting to track down.

I mean: Shea Whigham (yes mate!), whose pristine ruggedness makes him look like he was born to play the receiving end of Harry Callahan’s Magnum, is a social worker (‘Parker’!) with substance abuse problems and a painful past. He’s assigned to Olivia Munn’s world-weary Dahlia (I’m not making this up), and her aw-shucks cute seven year old daughter (Taegen Burns). Problem is that Dahlia’s bad news husband (‘Mike’- booo!) has come out of the big house and fallen back into his old ways. Tough guy Parker, with his innate awareness of the criminal underworld, aggressive stoicism and strong moral code, is the last person Mike wants around when he’s trying to shift massive, shrink-wrapped packages of heroin about this hackneyed town of seedy bars and threatening projects. How is Parker supposed to save the kid and by implication the entire day? Violence, lots of clumsy, cruel and visceral violence, that’s how.

the gateway review

You’ll have to hang in there for the really good stuff, though. In the meantime, there is a great deal of fun to be had with this utterly ridiculous film. Parker, who, let’s remind ourselves, is a social worker, executes his role as if he’s been job-trained by John Wayne. He is cynical with a heart of gold, friends with Keith David (whom he hangs out with in a casino in a genuinely lovely scene) and tooled up. He skulks around his city office full of pen pushers and bean counters with the caged animal incongruity of Mr. Incredible at the start of the Pixar film.

Narrative demands conflict, so one of his male co-workers makes lascivious comments about Dahlia (a ridiculous moment), and Parker bangs him out (brilliant). Consequently -despite the fact that a) there were no witnesses and b) surely speaking about clients in such a way is gross misconduct in the first instance - Parker’s boss has to take his social worker badge; Oi, Parker, you’re doling out rough justice and drinking heavily while getting on with the job! This isn’t in the rule book, etc. Undeterred, Parker goes rogue. Time for some under the radar community service...

the gateway review

Scanning some user reviews on imdb (as I honestly couldn’t remember Mike’s name or figure out who he was from the cast pics, so functional was his character to this methodical tale of redemption), it turns out that a few punters were disappointed enough by The Gateway (even the title is a bit of a non-sequitur) to voice their dissent online: ‘painful’, ‘forgettable’, ‘worst film!’. Oh, lighten up! This is a film where the baddie hides around 10 kilograms of smack in his daughter’s rucksack for some reason, and the daughter is chased, flees brutally violent incidents, and meets Bruce Dern all while carrying it all on her back unbeknownst. When the violence does happen, it’s right up in your face, too, providing a stark moonshine chaser to the woozy melodrama.

Yes, there are drawbacks: Munn is beautiful but bland, with her character passive in a way which contradicts the genre context, but you can’t have everything I suppose. There is also a lack of sleaze which may dishearten some viewers striving to recreate that grindhouse experience, but in the same way that the film looks too good in disparity to the scratches and ochre fade of the exploitation cinema of yore, it’s a welcome sign that we’ve moved on.

the gateway review

I’m glad though, and you should be too, that we can enjoy these occasional scuzzy throwbacks, especially when they are made with the misguided sincerity of this one - and not with that self-consciously artificial manner which seemed to be in vogue up until a few years ago.

And, look, if all that’s not enough, then The Gateway ends with an out-of-nowhere actual gospel singalong.

The Gateway is on UK/ROI VOD from September 27th and DVD from October 5th.

2021 movie reviews