Hellion hath no fury like a teenage boy.
Thirteen-year-old Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins), his 10-year-old brother Wes (Deke Garner), and their father Hollis (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad), are still reeling after the death of Hollis’ wife a year earlier. Hollis is emotionally absent and barely holding the family together, when they are blindsided by Wes’ removal from the home, due to neglect. Now Hollis and Jacob try to repair the damage to their relationship, as they work to get little Wes back home.
Hellion isn’t a bad movie, it just didn’t leave a lasting impression — and that’s fine. Not every film will make an indelible mark on our movie memories. Some you will simply enjoy in the moment. Then, when it’s over, you send it to the old archives where it stays until you’re reminded of it while perusing the sales rack at your local Walmart, or scrolling through the choices on your favorite video streaming site.
Hellion is based on a short film by writer Kat Candler, who also wrote and directed its feature length counterpart. She delivers a poignant tale with fairly interesting characters; sadly it doesn’t bring anything strikingly new to a subject matter that’s been done many times before. Troubled kid, distant father and a mother who isn’t in the picture, is a topic that’s been explored frequently, and with an issue that many of us can relate to first hand, you have to set your story apart from what’s preceded it.
What saves Candler’s feature length directorial debut are the actors she uses to tell her tale. Youngin’ Josh Wiggin plays surly 13-year-old hooligan Jacob Wilson, and as I watched him, it was hard to believe that this was his first major motion picture role. He is amazing! When you see in the extras that he is a nice, polite, and smiley kid, it makes his spot on performance of an angry teenager with an incredible lack of adult supervision, even more phenomenal.
Aaron Paul gives a powerful performance as Hollis, Jacob’s dad, a man still in the midst of his own grief. So much so, that he can’t see his sons are also in a lot of pain. Hollis has closed himself off, in particular from his eldest son, who is quickly headed down a path that could lead him to the coveted title of inmate. Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) plays Hollis’ sister-in-law Pam Noonan, who becomes a pivotal figure in the life of the Wilson men, when a CPS worker pays an unexpected visit to the Wilson home while dad is at work. A woman who never wanted children is suddenly awarded custody of ten year old Wes, and it begins to change her in ways she never expected. Lewis’ portrayal is steady, yet comes off a bit wooden. This isn’t the actress’s fault, however. Her character doesn’t have much depth, which defies just how important the role is to the film.
With that said, Hellion gets a high five from me, and Candler appears to have a bright future ahead of her. This film makes a wonderful and honest attempt to explore the lives of a family ripped apart by a tragic death, but it doesn’t bring anything fresh to the age old struggle.
Hellion is another fine MPI DVD release. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, provides a crisp and clear picture of the small Texas town that is the films’ backdrop. The heavy metal music dispersed throughout the 99 minutes, sounds nice and chunky — just the way Metallica and Slayer should — thanks to the Dolby 5.1 Surround track. Extras include the original 6-minute short that the full length feature is based on, a Behind the Scenes Featurette, the Sundance Premiere, and the films’ trailer. It was nice to see the cast and crews’ obvious mad love for each other, in what seems to have been a positive experience for all.
Hellion is Husband Approved!® It is awarded three comfy recliners out five. Josh Wiggins’ gives a standout performance, and alongside veterans like Paul and Lewis — even with its shortcomings — this film is still worth your while.
Young Mr. Wiggins is the main reason this film is Not Guilty.