Determined to find his footing in the Manhattan fast lane, the Wall Street striver at the center of "The Price" is eager to put glamour-free New Jersey, and the working-class struggles of his Nigerian immigrant family, in the rearview mirror. Writer-director Anthony Onah offers fresh insights into the deathless topic of the American dream, but just as ambition eclipses the protagonist's judgment, the movie loses its way in an excess of generic story strands.
Grounding the muddle of generational clash, workplace politics and wan romance is Aml Ameen's subtle, contained performance. Caught between the emotional chaos of his family and the bro culture of investment banking, Adderall-popping Harvard grad Seyi pushes himself relentlessly, eventually resorting to illegal tactics to boost his corporate profile. When he's not vying for position in the high-rise office, his warm, relaxed interactions with lobby security guard Iji (Craig muMs Grant), a fellow Nigerian, make it clear how much of a strain the upstairs performance is.
A dinner-date discussion about racism has a bracing spontaneity; it's also the only interesting thing that happens in the on-off relationship between Seyi and white medical student Liz (Lucy Griffiths). Instead of pressing deeper into the one-of-a-kind specifics of his story, Onah tries to drum up a high-finance thriller. The home-front melodrama involving Seyi's ailing father (Souléymane Sy Savané, of "Goodbye Solo") proves just as forced.
It's the glimmers of penetrating observation that make the overload of clichés so frustrating in Onah's first feature, and suggest better things for his second.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: AMC Orange 30, Orange