40 West (2011)
Review by Jude Felton
As much as I’d like to, it’s not always possible to keep up with absolutely every film that is released. This is down to the fact that there are just so damned many being made. The home video market started this back in the 80s, but even that doesn’t come close to the sheer volume of movies that out there now. So, within this constant barrage it is always a pleasant surprise to come across one that, not only, was I previously unaware of, but it turns out to be a rather good film. 40 West is one such case.
This independent film from Maine is what you might call a modern day noir, similar in tone to films of John Dahl, such as Red Rock West or The Last Seduction, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Nonetheless, it evokes that atmosphere and is driven along on the strengths of the lead performances and the dark and twisting plot.
The focus of 40 West is a Blues singer named Maeve, who finds herself held hostage in a sleazy motel room by her estranged husband. He’s been granted early release from prison and, for reasons that will eventually become clear, has something for Maeve. Into this mix are three other main characters, all of which are integral to the plot which is not quite as straightforward as initially outlined.
As a film, 40 West has a constant prevailing air of violence, the threat of violence and on occasion acts of violence, but it is the story itself that drives the film. Being set almost exclusively within the motel it would be easy for the film to lose steam, and indeed direction, but the script from Jennifer Nicole Porter, who also plays Maeve, and direction from Dana Packard ensure that it remains entirely engrossing. It’s simplistic on the surface, yet as we dig into events more is revealed, which in turn are surprising and shocking.
On the technical side, 40 West is an accomplished looking film. Being set mainly in the one location has allowed Packard to focus the film, and in turn it looks spot-on; with a polished yet sleazy vibe to it. It’s technically a very good looking film with great use being made of the location, and the RED One camera, on which it was filmed, perfectly captures every detail.
40 West certainly isn’t the sort of film to watch if you are looking for non-stop action, although that is not to say that it doesn’t move along at a decent pace. However, if you are seeking a dark and violent character driven piece, this could well be right down your street. The performances are convincing throughout and the script offers up plenty, especially seeing as though on the surface it seems very cut and dry.
The only real negative that I found, whilst watching it, was that the film was possibly slightly on the long side, running as it does to 2 hours. This isn’t too much of an issue though as, previously mentioned, Packard does keep the story driving forward.
For fans of character driven movies, especially of the noir variety, 40 West is definitely well worth your time. It’ll keep you guessing throughout and will certainly hold your attention as its violent tale unfolds. A very well crafted thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed.
40 West is available now on DVD and on Digital.