Starring Marlon Kazadi, Adrian Holmes, and Aleks Paunovic. Available on video on demand on Tuesday (June 15).
Not to be confused with Jennifer Lynch’s 2012 Canadian psychological horror of the same name, this Chained, filmed by writer-director Titus Heckel (With Child) in Kelowna, encases a coming-of-age story within a crime thriller.
Vancouver’s Marlon Kazadi (Riverdale) portrays 13-year-old Taylor, who finds solace from his bullying peers and his bullish cop father (Adrian Holmes) by growing plants with his friend and budding love interest Nora (Leia Madu). Heckel effectively captures the delusional confusion between youthful dreams and reality, as Taylor attempts to actualize his fantasy of owning an organic farm with Nora.
Things take quite the turn when, while escaping from bullies one day, Taylor winds up in an abandoned warehouse, where he stumbles across a dead body—and a man, Jim (Aleks Paunovic), shackled by a chain. Rather than release Jim, the wary Taylor opts instead to visit him regularly, bringing him food and water, chatting with him, and soon finding out he's a criminal.
As Taylor gets drawn into something bigger than he can handle, the developing cat-and-mouse scenario is rich with potential—but a few fumbles deflate the suspense. Growing tensions get tripped up by abrupt editing, and it takes time before Taylor’s motivation for keeping Jim captive properly coalesces, which leaves the proceedings rudderless for a while.
In addition, Taylor’s interest in gardening, which is a link to his departed mother, doesn’t quite gel with the criminal elements but resonates more in the exploration of his father’s misguided masculinity. On that point, the intrigue of the family drama, particularly Taylor’s well-articulated dynamic with his bullying father, suggests that the coming-of-age storyline warranted an opportunity to stand alone on its own.
Although there’s some unevenness in the performances and chemistry between characters, the actors remain watchable and Kazadi does his brooding best, carrying much of the film. Adrian Holmes (19-2) appears the most effortless and convincing in his role, and Emily Holmes perks things up in a brief but snappy appearance as a shady real estate agent.
Some sharpening of pace and focus could have realized this drama’s aspirations of becoming a taut thriller. For now, this effort offers promise of what is to come from the talent assembled.