No amount of jittery camera work, heavy metal music and explosive violence can erase the feeling that the Texas-based working-class drama "Hellion" is more of a curated exhibit about a broken family than an organically engaging film about one.
Writer-director Kat Candler's focus is on the ill-fated choices of angrily rebellious, motocross-obsessed 13-year-old Jacob (newcomer Josh Wiggins) and his withdrawn, widowed father, Hollis (Aaron Paul), whose already tense relationship grows worse when custody of Jacob's younger brother, Wes, is given to Hollis' sister-in-law (
Candler's problems start with clichéd, explaining dialogue that doesn't trust what the vibe of her scenes already convey, followed by dust-ups and backslides that happen on cue and a strange sentimentality that creeps in at awkward moments.
That said, there are a few grimly effective moments that reveal the way dysfunction feeds on itself when life's options seem hopelessly curtailed. And if Wiggins seems too inexperienced to feel completely natural onscreen, the patented mix of ache and rage that Paul honed for years on "Breaking Bad" serves him well in an older role. One just wishes the scaffolding of indie tropes around Paul and the better parts of "Hellion" weren't so shaky.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.