Who would win in a fight? The social worker or the abusive husband?
“The Gateway” is a B-movie and a pretty good one at that. Yes, it’s got some corny dialogue and generic moments, but it also has some fresh performances to overshadow those elements. And it also uses some strong emotions to allow us to sympathize the the characters.
You get some action sequences that are either entertaining or laughably stupid, depending on how director Michele Civetta presents them. It was one of the screenplays to be blacklisted, but how this came out in the open, don’t ask me. The story barely makes any sense, and yet, I’m still recommending “The Gateway” for being goofy and emotional at the same time. I’m probably going to get some Facebook comments saying this movie sucked, and they probably would be right. But I’m also the same film critic who panned “Sweet Girl.” So, we’re all entitled to our own opinions.
We meet social worker Parker Jode (Shea Whigham), who helps look after Ashley (Taegen Burns), the little girl of a blackjack dealer and single mom named Dahlia (Olivia Munn). He’s constantly haunted by his past when his mother O.D.ed, resorting to his estranged relationship with his father (Bruce Dern), drinking, and losing his job for punching an office jerk. This guy was also apparently a foster kid, and he’s trying to make sure Ashley doesn’t become one.
The girl’s father Mike (Zach Avery) has just been released from prison, to do a drug heist from the Mexican cartel, under the orders of the crime boss Duke (Frank Grillo). The job gets messed up, the cartel is now after them, and Duke gives Mike 24 hours to get him his stuff.
Parker finds out that Mike is an abusive prick, and tries to help Dahlia and Ashley, and it’s the law of the movies that the single mom says: “Go get your own family.” But of course, she comes crawling to him, when her husband nearly gets her in trouble with the law. And of course, Parker comes crawling to daddy when the mom and girl have to go on the run from Mike.
And so it’s the social worker vs the abusive husband.
“The Gateway” delivers the goods when we see the actors expressing their emotions through words or fights. I know most people prefer words over fighting, but still, it’s entertaining to see this combo. I don’t care what you say. I still had fun seeing it. Whigham has his vulnerabilities, Avery is gritty, and Dern has his complexion. Even the supporting work from Grillo and Munn try to keep them in check. I just wish the girl was smarter than the movie made her be. I mean, I usually prefer it when movie kids are smarter than their age and activities tell them, but then again, not all kids can be movie stars.
Somehow, this movie kept me involved. It uses its music and songs in the right areas, instead of seeming too dramatic. It has characters trying overcome their situations. And it closes with the fact that many kids enter foster care every year. Sad, but true.
In Select Theaters and On Demand