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Review: Contemporary drama ’11:55' crackles like a high-noon western

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Victor Almanzar, second from left, in the film “11:55.”
(Gravitas Ventures)

A contemporary drama constructed upon the foundation of a classic western, “11.55,” a potent first feature by Ari Issler and Ben Snyder, transcends any lingering trace of gimmickry with emotionally gripping results.

Returning from deployment in Afghanistan, Nelson Sanchez (a quietly effective Victor Almanzar) has the haunted expression of someone well aware that the festive homecoming party arranged by his fiercely protective big sister, Angie (Elizabeth Rodriguez, of “Orange Is the New Black”), will prove to be short-lived.

There’s unfinished business waiting for him in his economically hard-hit corner of Newburgh, N.Y., in the form of a vendetta against him by the brother (Mike Carlsen) of the drug dealer he fatally shot before leaving town, who’s due to arrive from Manhattan on the 11:55 p.m. bus.

While they may have borrowed the ticking-clock conceit from the likes of “High Noon” and “3:10 to Yuma,” there’s little that is derivative in the penetrating script by Issler, Snyder and Almanzar. which offers a convincing portrait of a man tired of attempting to outrun his dead-end past.

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Although familiar faces John Leguizamo, as a wheelchair-bound vet who served with Nelson, and Julia Stiles as Carlsen’s high-strung pregnant wife, are on hand to lend their customarily capable support, the affecting work by Almanzar, Rodriguez and the rest of the ensemble in this immersive film tenderly speaks for itself.

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‘11:55’

Not rated

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Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood

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