Film Review: ‘The Gateway’ (2021)

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Stars: Shea Whigham, Olivia Munn, Zach Avery
Director: Michele Civetta
Distributor: Signature Entertainment

“Where are your parents?”

Parker is a social worker and an addict. Played relatively well by Shea Whigham, the character is presented excellently in a tracking shot early on in the film, encapsulating and detailing the whos, wheres and whats he has to deal with on a daily basis…in and out of work.

Parker’s biggest case comes in the form of Ashley (Taegen Burns), whose shared struggles with her mother, Dahlia (Olivia Munn), are inevitable with the upcoming release from prison of father, Mike (Zach Avery). Parker’s tried his best to establish both safety and stability for Ashley and Dahlia, but with the release of former gangster Mike, and the lure of Frank Grillo’s crime boss, Duke, can Parker continue to protect this unofficial family of his own?

With The Gateway, the film views more appropriately as a character study than an action film. The film is really about Parker. Equipped with flashbacks contextualising contemporary addiction, the psyche and lifestyle of a generally good-hearted individual is up for analysis throughout. Despite the good intentions as a social worker, Parker is prone to morally questionable choices, which includes both violence and substance abuse. The trope of a vulgar man placed within positions of trust and/or power is present here.

When action sequences are prominent, despite its tonal shift, the action on screen feels somewhat realistic and almost gritty in its execution. The inclusion of Frank Grillo as a crime boss, despite its flamboyant and spectacle nature, doesn’t elevate the levels of crime or villainy to unrealistic levels in The Gateway. The workforce of Mike (Grillo) could have easily been established as over excessive in quality and quantity, thus resulting in crazed number and shoot-outs as seen in both the John Wick films and Nobody – of course, they are excellent films, but the tone and context of The Gateway does not match that of the Keanu Reeves action vehicles.

Though it (thankfully) doesn’t occur often, The Gateway manages to lose itself when attempting to exist – though minimally – as a commentary of sorts. Providing a supposed commentary on the US wars and war veterans coming back home etc., this miniature quest fails miserably and is completely out of place. Perhaps, as The Gateway does try to mirror the edgy anti-hero material of the 1970s, it too tries to mirror the social commentaries in which the New Hollywood predecessors successfully possess. 

Under the creative whim of writer-director Michele Civetta, he has managed to present the viewer with an array of moral dilemmas all throughout the film, and therefore establishing tricky predicaments in which the viewer is placed in. Parker is a severely troubled individual who sees his good work – what he, essentially, lives for – backfire on him from every angle. These unfortunate circumstances do attempt to establish justifiable sympathy from the viewer, but as an anti-hero, the consequences in which he establishes paints a true picture of himself. 

Ultimately, with an acknowledgment of yesteryear and an eagerness to present itself in a gritty manner – though not quite that of Bad Lieutenant  – The Gateway is a worthy character study, though not the best of examples in influencing careers in social care.

The Gateway will be available in the UK on digital from 27th September, and DVD on 5th October. Many thanks to Signature Entertainment for the pleasure of this film.

3 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source, Signature Entertainment, Fair Use 

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