This surf-flavored family tragedy feels a bit like it was reverse-engineered to fit the title of "Dawn Patrol" — surfer lingo for an early morning session. The film, directed by veteran filmmaker Daniel Petrie Jr., attempts to stuff too many elements into the premise.
Scott Eastwood stars as John, an affable surfer and board shaper who must grapple with his pro-surfer brother's death and subsequent family fallout in their tight-knit beach community. For some reason, this is set in 2008, against a period of the financial crisis, immigration tension and the Iraq war.
Jeff Fahey and Rita Wilson star as his kooky parents, their performances cranked to 11. In fact, most of the characters swing wildly from mood to mood, from one moment to the next.
There's a sort of '90s B-movie throwback feel to the film in style and tone, but also in the not-so-progressive depictions of women (either rabid mama bears or sex-crazed beach babes) and people of color (specifically, people of Mexican descent). Eventually, the taut, beach-set crime tale devolves into an epic Greek tragedy with no one escaping unscathed or inculpable.
As over-the-top operatic and inexplicable as "Dawn Patrol" can be, producer and star Eastwood remains captivating and charismatic, ultimately serving as a grounding element within the swirl of emotional drama and almost saving the film from going overboard.
No MPAA rating. 1 hour, 27 minutes.