DOWN THE P.C.H.

3 Stars
Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 95 minutes
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Drug dealing… can someone name me one movie where everything turns out roses? I know it’s the nature of the beast, if you’re doing or dealing drugs, things will go to Hell in a handbasket but just once I wish that a movie would come along that would spin the conventions of the drug dealing descent drama on its ear. This one comes close for the majority of the film but ultimately finds itself on the same path as its predecessors.

Garrett (Vincent Grashaw) has just been released from prison after two years. He finds himself returning to a family that is both the same as always and completely different. His parents (Lin Shaye and Michael Cavanaugh), affluent folks with a public image to protect, spent the majority of his prison time ignoring him, while his younger brother Noah (Zack Bennett) went from innocent youth to drug dealer in his own right, working for the local drug kingpin Doc (Guillermo Díaz). Will Noah go the same route as his brother? Will Garrett be able to help his brother while rebuilding his own interrupted life?

If this were your typical, over-the-top flash and cartoonish drug dealing drama, the characters would be obvious cut-outs. Doc would be maniacally evil, Noah would be all wide-eyed rebellion and Garrett would be gristled yet redeemed. Luckily, “Down the P.C.H.” is not altogether typical. There are semblences of the stereotypes in the characters, but at no point, even when things go to shit (as well know they will), does anyone become a caricature.

Instead of dwelling in clichés, “Down the P.C.H.” is a character piece, allowing for all involved to be multi-dimensional. Garrett may be looking for redemption after having been incarcerated for two years, but he’s still got a mean temper and Daddy-issues. Noah is a rebellious teenager figuring out his life, and dabbling in drugs (as many teens do… not so much the dealing, but the trying) but he’s also dealing with the possibility of dancing down the same road as his older brother. Even Doc, who could easily be painted as the evil drug kingpin, is a calm businessman, who only really lets his darker side out when his girlfriend finds herself the victim of rape (and who wouldn’t freak out about something like that). And as 2/3 of the movie plays out, you actually think there’s a possibility that this film could end without a violent death, or something equally as tragic. But, you know, drug genre flicks, like horror flicks, have their common conventions and this film, with a sliver more hope at the end than most in its class, still finds itself playing by the same endgame rules.

In the end, “Down the P.C.H.” is a well-acted gem in the drug film genre, and as such is definitely one of the more unique tellings of the drug dealing descent, eschewing the normally overwhelming tragic drama for simple, fly-on-the-wall character development. One can only wonder what director Sean Michael Beyer could do with a less stereotyped genre, considering his ability to get such realistically subtle performances from his cast. Hopefully we’ll find out.



Posted on December 17, 2006 in Reviews by
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