It’s taken nearly 8 years for The Gateway to be made. Originally known as Where Angels Die, the screenplay was deemed one of the hottest properties in town. Now, the film has finally arrived, featuring an ensemble cast consisting of Shea Whigham, Olivia Munn, Bruce Dern, Frank Grillo, Taryn Manning, and Mark Boone Junior.
Directed and co-written by Michele Civetta, The Gateway is a crime thriller about a flawed social worker named Parker (Whigham) who tries to protect his client Dahlia (Munn) from her recently paroled husband who has ties to the drug world. But has Parker bitten off a little more than he can chew here?
Civetta admitted that he took inspiration from John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and this brooding influence comes through in Parker’s characterisation. He’s the typical chain-smoking antihero with a troubled past but a heart of gold—kind of the staple for any noir or crime thriller. Fortunately, in Whigham, Civetta found the perfect actor to embody Parker because it’s like he was born to play morally ambiguous characters.
Whigham’s fellow cast members don’t disappoint either. Munn puts in a poignant performance as Dahlia, with her character’s emotional arc being the core of the film. Equally impressive is Dern whose command of the screen as Marcus is yet another example of why he should be mentioned in the same breath as other legends from his generation. Unfortunately, while Grillo appears on the poster and clocks in a characteristically fantastic shift, he doesn’t receive as much screen time as you’d expect here.
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If you’re looking for a dark and gritty story with lots of grey areas, The Gateway peels back the layers to reveal the cold, hard truths about relationships. It’s complex, but it’s also downright ugly as it showcases the extent of dysfunction. Though, this isn’t a film that’ll give you a serious case of existential dread when it ends, as there is a glimmer of hope offered to the audience.
While most criticisms of modern films are that they’re too long, the opposite could be said of The Gateway. It isn’t quite a non-stop-heart-in-your-throat type of spectacle since it’s meant to be a slowburner. However, it could’ve used a further half an hour to flesh out the story and allow for the moody atmosphere to soak in a little deeper. Something about the third act feels incomplete as Civetta rushes to the finish line, and it doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the film.
That being said, The Gateway is still a satisfying crime thriller. It might not be the project that its original screenplay promised it could be, but it’s a compelling story complemented by terrific and layered performances.