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Review: Thriller ‘Low Tide’ plumbs character depth from teen heists

Jaeden Martell, Keean Johnson, ‘Low Tide.’
Jaeden Martell, left, and Keean Johnson in the movie “Low Tide.”
(A24)

“Goonies” bumps up against “River’s Edge” in “Low Tide,” a somber character study of a period teen thriller set along the Jersey Shore involving buried treasure and not-so-hidden social class tensions.

It’s summer 1980-something, and while the beaches are filled with vacationing “Bennys” (the pejorative name given to those tourists flooding in from Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York), locals Alan (Keean Johnson), Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri) and ringleader Red (Alex Neustaedter) are spending their school holidays burgling vacation homes.

The stakes are raised considerably during the break-in of a house across the bay, where Alan and his younger brother, Peter (up-and-coming Jaeden Martell), discover a stash of rare gold coins that opens up a Pandora’s box of mounting distrust and resentment as the thieves are coaxed into pulling the proverbial “one last heist,” leading to the inevitable violent conclusion.

Although the film digs into some well-mined screen terrain dating back to “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and the plotting would have benefited from a few more twists and turns, writer-director Kevin McMullin, in his feature debut, coaxes effectively naturalistic performances from his young cast — especially Johnson and Martell — who look and sound like actual adolescents.

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Despite the inherent familiarity, the quietly observed “Low Tide,” graced by a mournful, undulating score by composers Brooke Blair and Will Blair, nevertheless packs a genuine depth.

‘Low Tide’
Rated: R, for language, some violence and teen drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: Starts Oct. 4, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills


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