Washed-up social worker with a slight hero complex, Parker (Shea Whigham), finds himself thrown deeper into the St. Louis crime underbelly when the father (Zach Avery) of his assigned family is released from prison. Struggling with demons of his own, Parker sets to write the wrongs of his past to prevent another child from growing up without a family.

On the surface, The Gateway isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a good one either. Incredibly generic, almost every scene and character choice can be anticipated before it happens. I would say that this solely rests on issues with the writing, but the directing is equal parts to blame. Each role is written to be a character cutout that any actor could be copy-pasted into. Unfortunately, this is most egregiously seen with Olivia Munn whose Dahlia is used solely to further the emotional development of Parker and be thrown around by Zach Avery’s Mike. It’s unfortunate because Munn has the skill to be great but continuously gets cast in roles that lift others up at the expense of her own. She does her best with what she is given but ultimately is let down by mediocre writing and directing. The rest of the cast share a similar fate but outside of the main three characters, the rest are forgettable or are used too sparingly to really have much impact (ie. Frank Grillo).

Outside of the writing and directing, the cinematography, editing, and choreography are all jarring, inconsistent, or uninspired. The action sequences looked to be pulled right from a dated shooter game but with a little finesse could be the best parts of the film. The cinematography and editing though suffered from the mid 2000’s-2010’s grimy gloss and nauseating jump cuts. Every scene was shot in a different way, with little consistency to make it seem like it was a stylistic choice. It came off as a film making team who had too many ideas but no one to say “no”.

There was potential here for a moving and poignant exploration of life around the foster care system. However, because of the messy execution and poor writing, the heart of this film was lost. Like the characters themselves, The Gateway became a generic cardboard cutout of any action film out there.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Signature Entertainment presents The Gateway on Digital Platforms 27th September & DVD 5th October.

Reviewed on September 27, 2021 (screener provided by Signature Entertainment). Rating: R. Running time: 91 min.

PRODUCTION: A Signature Entertainment release of a Metalwork Pictures production. Producers: Stephen Israel & Andrew Levitas. Executive producers: Anna Halberg, Kacie Lehner, James T. Russell & Jeremy Salvador.

CREW: Director: Michele Civetta. Writers: Alex Felix Bendaña, Andrew Levitas, & Michele Civetta. Editing: Suzy Elmiger & Trish Fuller. Cinematography: Bryan Newman.

CAST: Shea Whigham, Olivia Munn, Zach Avery, Bruce Dern, Frank Grillo, Alexander Wraith, Taegen Burns, Jackson James, Shannon Adawn, Nick Daly, Mark Boone Junior, and Taryn Manning.

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