What you may think is just a story about friends getting together for some fun and drinking turns dark fast. This may be slow to get started, but the ending is well worth the journey. Enjoy the ride.
The title refers to where most of the serious moments of the film go down. That is the auto repair shop owned by one of the main characters, Frank, played by the writer/director of “Small Engine Repair,” John Pollono. Pollono based his film on his stage play of the same name. Based on what I saw here, I wouldn’t have minded catching that show. Frank has a teenage daughter, Crystal (Ciara Bravo), and has been in and out of prison most of her life, but she still loves him. He tries his best to give her what she needs. He succeeds in making her proud most of the time, but because he has been away for long periods of time, she doesn’t always make the best decisions when it comes to boyfriends.
At the beginning of the film, which puzzles at first, we’re treated to the meaning of the term “Manch Vegas.” It’s a name for the city of Manchester, New Hampshire, juxtaposing Las Vegas’ glitz and glamour with Manchester’s lack of either. We’re told that it’s used derisively, and when it’s used in the film, it’s used well. It’s said by Swaino (Jon Bernthal) as a way to let Frank know how he feels about Frank’s ex, Karen, played by Jordana Spiro. Crystal loves her mother, even though she isn’t the best influence on her. This being the case, Frank would appreciate it if Swaino would have some respect. This leads to a problem.
What I found appealing was how Pollono introduced each character. When he does, it’s always to make and keep them memorable. Right away, you know who’s important to him and what they think of him, as well.
Frank and Swaino also run around with Packie (Shea Whigham). He’s the weakest link in the group and seems utterly different from them, but that’s what they like about him and definitely what they need. When Packie is around, their conversations turn to topics they may not have ever brought up. Their most recent discussion is about social media and how to use it correctly or if it’s even a good idea to use it at all.
These characters are great, and they’re portrayed very well by this cast, selling the relationships, and playing off one another more than adequately. Pollono has written a robust and intense script and builds the tension significantly. He did a magnificent job controlling the set, getting what he wanted out of every actor while managing to do one hell of a job onscreen himself.
I say all this because an emotional scene you’d never see coming hits you mightily, so have a tissue ready if you’re the passionate type. This is when the entire movie changes.
An entitled, bratty millennial named Chad (Spencer House) shows up to sell the guys some drugs. He begins to brag and laugh hysterically about a teenage girl he was able to convince to send him nude pictures of herself. He warns them never to do such a thing because “the internet is forever.”
This film has plenty of violence and ugliness, but it is also a story of friendship and love. As I said, “Small Engine Repair” gets wicked and grisly fast. So much so that your knuckles are practically white from clenching your fists, it’s presented so effectively. You’ll be impressed in many ways with how skillfully Pollono surprises and shocks you. I can’t recommend it enough and look forward to seeing what he offers us next.
Small Engine Repair
Directed by: John Pollono
Written by: John Pollono
Starring: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Ciara Bravo, Jordana Spiro, Spencer House and John Pollono
Run Time: 1h 43min
Genres: Drama, Comedy
Producers: Peter Abrams, Jon Bernthal, Rick Rosenthal, Noah Rothman, Tom Stoner, Steve Toll
Vertical Entertainment is releasing SMALL ENGINE REPAIR in the following local