Jack Kesy gives an intense, committed performance in writer-director Daniel DiMarco's debut feature, "Juggernaut," playing an angry outsider whose mumbly voice and permanent scowl makes him a hard protagonist to like. DiMarco's noir-inflected family drama is confident and mature, but less involving than it could be, because the filmmaker and his star make their anti-hero stubbornly unappealing.
Set in a small Canadian town, "Juggernaut" follows the conflict that ensues when ne'er-do-well Saxon Gamble (Kesy) comes home in the wake of his mother's suicide. Convinced that something's amiss with her death, Saxon confronts his father Leonard (Peter McRobbie), a recovering alcoholic turned preacher. He also investigates how his mom's insurance money has allowed his entrepreneurial brother Dean (David Cubitt) to open a local for-profit prison.
The acting in "Juggernaut" (including the venerable Stephen McHattie as the town's dark conscience) is excellent across the board, and DiMarco effectively balances a moody mystery story with a heavy character sketch.
Although it's hardly essential that a movie's characters be "relatable," a certain monotony sets in when the lead and the supporting players are so persistently surly. There's a lot of slow-paced muttering and grim stares in "Juggernaut," as though Saxon and his family were daring the audience to care about their problems.
Frankly, that's not always easy. DiMarco has an interesting story, dulled by the people he's chosen to tell it.
Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills