A Life Not To Follow plays out like a book adaptation. One in which you get multiple connected stories, from the different players involved, before it all ties bind in the end. In which you are given just enough to see how all things are connected.
A hitman named Eric (Fiore Leo) is looking for revenge, a mobster named Luca (Michael Capozzi) is out to prove himself, and a private detective named Tobias Kane (David Graziano) is out looking for a girl, Eliza (Molly Kay) whose unfortunate life got tangled with both men. And being that this is styled as a neo-noir, naturally, bullets fly. Leaving you to wonder, of the men who this movie is about, which one may still be on their feet when the last casing hits the ground?
You Can Easily Connect The Dots
The multi-chapter narrative of the movie presents the hitman, followed by the gangster, and then wraps up with the detective. With that, you get two distinct stories in an hour and then 40 minutes of understanding how one is connected to the other and where this detective’s life comes into play. All of which isn’t convoluted or trying to make things more complicated than they need to be. There is just enough mystery to tickle your brain but not so much you would need a cork board, some push pins, and string to understand how everything and everyone is connected.
David Graziano as Tobias Kane
While chapter 1 is likable, and chapter 2 is tolerable, Graziano gives chapter 3, the finale of the film, a strong finish. For while the first two chapters have the violence associated with crime dramas, Tobias’ takes it to the next level in his chapter and brings that neo-noir feel. He elevates the film from seeming like another production inspired by the work of Martin Scorsese, but without the finances to truly pay homage, to something which has its own voice.
For while Tobias is very much your usual private detective who has drinking problems and etc. Graziano presents him like this is a role he is known for. Like this movie is part of a long series of which Graziano has played Tobias Kane. I’m talking about from his rise as a federal agent to his fall and him becoming a private detective. Making it where, after sort of wet behind the ears acting and dialog in the first two chapters, it is like going from watching the opening acts to finally getting to see the headliner.
Erica Derrickson as Finola
I can’t say what it is, but Derrickson as Finola in chapter 1 just left a mark. The kind where, when writer/director Christopher Di Nunzio gave me the opportunity to review this, and part of his long-form description was this being a Neo-Noir, I was expecting her to play a femme fatale. For there is this quality to her acting which is only really rivaled by Graziano in this film.
Thus really making you believe, she is going to be the female lead. She is going to be the one who, for whatever reason, is why all these men are getting killed. All the while, she just seems like the innocent girlfriend to some mob hitman who just got out. But, alas, after chapter 1, we don’t see her ever again.
Quite A Bit Cringey Dialog and Acting
I do my best to remind myself of two things when watching true indie movies [note] Meaning, not the ones which are under 10 million dollars and overly artsy. [/note]. The first being, even if an actor has had a traditional education, that doesn’t necessarily prep them to be on set and deal with all it takes to be in a movie. Alongside that, I remind myself of a Malcolm X quote from Maya Angelou’s “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes.”
“Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because [s]he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time you didn’t know what you know today.”
Which I say because, outside of the two actors named in the highlights, the others are average at best. Though when it comes to some like Victor (Angel Garcia), who is featured in chapter 1, you may find yourself cringe. For on top of him seeming like a caricature, his dialog sounds like it is coming from someone who hasn’t interacted with someone who speaks English as a second language. So, for Victor, they just made assumptions based on stereotypes.
Then when it comes to the whole mob thing, that is where you really get this wannabe Scorsese vibe. If not just being inspired by classic mob movies in general. For while I have no experience with real mobsters, again there is this vibe these characters were written based on stereotypes. That is, rather than present complex human beings a la The Sopranos, for instance.
The story as a whole is good, the problem mostly comes from how certain characters execute it. For between cringey dialog and characters who seem written based off stereotypes, you see a handful of weak links. However, Derrickson keeps you interested in chapter 1, alongside the gun violence, and Graziano snatches back your focus in chapter 3 to give the A Life Not To Follow a strong ending.
Hence the Mixed label. For the creators of A Life Not To Follow seemingly took note of films, like Third Person for example, which have three distinct stories which eventually tied together. And in that, you see there is a serious attempt at making sure each story can not only stand on its own but keep the viewer interested. Which, unfortunately, for chapter 2 the likely goal wasn’t a success, but the ending is good enough that you forgive the film for one lackluster part. Much less, sort of iffy writing and performances.