Crime doesn’t pay – that’s the message of The Gateway, the new feature from director Michele Civetta. It’s a common and well-trodden tagline, which is sadly a good way to describe the film.
Originating from a screenplay included in the 2013 Blacklist called Where Angels Die, The Gateway is an inner-city criminal story of the kind that litters the late-night programming on Film4. Starring Shea Whigham as Parker (a social worker with a character background as uninventive as his name), Olivia Munn and Bruce Dern, the film moves through a predictable plot with visual flair but a feeling of tonal inconsistency.
Parker, who’s gruff stand-offishness apes every anti-hero from Batman to Butch Cassidy, must confront personal demons on his journey to keep Dahlia (Munn) and her daughter on the right side of the law, and he might just have to break a few jaws on the way.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
This is the biggest problem with the film, the tale of the flawed White Knight character who cannot help but intervene in the life of a helpless mother is a common one and The Gateway does very little to change the formula. This is not helped by the fact that, owing to the director’s previous credits on music videos, many of the scenes are visually distinct from one another in a decidedly off-putting way. Alongside this are moments where music is used to heighten the dramatic tension or add depth, but the end result is incredibly on-the-nose.
The production’s strengths lie in Whigham and Dern’s performances. Whilst Parker may not be the most original creation, the quality of the acting does make him enjoyable and believable. The same can also be said of Dern, who plays a father figure from Parker’s difficult childhood. The veteran actor brings the same intensity he has for decades now, and his chemistry with Whigham really manages to transform a pair of flat characters.
Overall, while there are some good performances and interesting visuals, the end result is decidedly forgettable. There are a number of better crime capers out there and many of them will feature more substantial commentary on the poverty they portray. In The Gateway these problems feel like window-dressing, a smattering of substance used to spice up a story that audiences are very familiar with.
The Gateway is released digitally on demand on 27th September 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Gateway here: