If there's anything the action-adventure genre does well, it's puns. And the punnily-titled Misfortune, which made its New York premiere last night as the opening screening of the Chelsea Film Festival, is no exception. Actor/director/writer Desmond Devenish's film tells the story of Boyd (Devenish), who becomes embroiled in a crime plot that his father left behind upon his death several years prior. When his late father's partner-turned-foe, Mallick (Kevin Gage) is released from prison, he comes after Boyd for a set of stolen diamonds that went missing when he was arrested for killing Boyd's father. By hunting down the diamonds himself, accompanied by his friend Russell (Xander Bailey) and girlfriend Sloan (Jenna Kanell), Boyd becomes more and more deeply involved in the crime—at first under Mallick's threats, then for the sake of avenging his father's death. By tracking down the valuable but unlucky diamonds, he essentially inherits his father's...misfortune. Ha, ha.
Despite some minor comic relief, however, the film takes itself seriously for the most part. And like any good crime movie, the suspense will keep you successfully suspending your disbelief—how did they find a pouch of diamonds dropped in a desert valley some seven years before? Who knows, who cares, the bad guy slashed their tires and they gotta get out of here. As the film goes on and the plot complicates, the pace quickens rapidly until it's barreling toward its tragic conclusion. And when it gets there, it's hard to imagine it going any other way.
Another thing Misfortune gets right is the cinematography, which is absolutely gorgeous and makes full use of the Arizona desert vistas. The lighting is brilliant, particularly in the exterior scenes. Nighttime scenes are lit innovatively and make visible exactly what needs to be without sacrificing aesthetics.
Performances are strong as well, with Kevin Gage shining as the deeply Western villain Mallick. Devenish and Bailey embody their characters effectively (as one might predict, given they co-wrote the script) and take hold of the film's more emotionally affecting moments, especially the film's climax. In perhaps the biggest tragedy of the film, however, Sloan is positioned mostly as a girlfriend-sidekick type, being forced to provide supposedly tender moments that don't really further the story or character development. Though she actually gets the most badass plot twist, it's a missed opportunity, as she essentially apologizes (and literally sobs) throughout her entire reversal. Regardless, Kanell kills it, selling every second of Sloan's eventual breakdown.
Misfortune is Devenish's debut feature, and given the attention to detail put into picture, editing, sound design, and performance, he's proven himself to be a promising talent in the genre of action and heist movies. Given the strengths despite the budgetary limitations of Misfortune, one suspects his future work will only become more polished and developed from here.