Thursday, September 2, 2021

A "Gateway' to nowhere

Despite a strong cast led by Shea Whigham, The Gateway never fuses into the gritty urban drama it seems to want to be. (The story is set in St. Louis but the movie actually was shot in Norfolk, Va.) Whigham's Parker —  another character with a single name -- works in a field that seems at odds with his behavior. Parker’s job as a social worker might well expose him to drug-world violence. But the movie amps things up by turning Parker into a pistol-packing former boxer. Parker wants to keep kids out of the foster-care system that nearly swallowed him as a child. Parker becomes increasingly involved in the lives of a woman (Olivia Munn) and her daughter (Taegen Burns) after a hot-tempered husband and father (Zach Avery) is released from prison. Avery's Mike quickly falls in with his old criminal clique led by the merciless Duke (Frank Grillo). When he gets crosswise with a drug cartel, Dahlia and Ashley are put at risk. Bruce Dern crops up as the jazz-trumpeter dad from whom Parker is estranged. Director Michele Civetta seems to be trying to say something about the complex corruptions that plague St. Louis and about one flawed man who tries to do some good. Noble aims remain unfulfilled because of lame dialogue and a plot that doesn’t fully engage the ambiguities and conflicts in Parker’s character. In sum, The Gateway's gritty stroll down mean streets leads to a dead end.

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