Occasionally, a movie comes along with no hype, no marketing muscle, and little hope of being seen beyond the filmmakers’ immediate family — even though it is better than most of the movies in the multiplex.
Such is the case with the low-budget, low-key thriller with the misleading comic-book title, Phantom Halo.
While the immediate family in question here does have some pull — director/co-writer Antonia Bogdanovich is the daughter of master director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show), who is executive producer here — that still probably won’t be enough to rescue this literate and noir-ish little film from undeserved obscurity.
Set in a gritty L.A. neighborhood, Phantom Halo revolves around two brothers — Beckett (Luke Kleintank, Pretty Little Liars) and Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Game of Thrones) — growing up in a broken home headed by their alcoholic, gambling-addicted dad, Warren (Sebastian Roché, A Walk Among the Tombstones). They survive with a clever scam: Sam performs Shakespeare soliloquies on the streets for cash while Beckett pickpockets the crowd.
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Still, Dad has huge gambling debts they can’t begin to cover, causing the sinister Roman (Gbenga Akinnagbe, The Good Wife) to threaten the entire family. Meanwhile, Beckett think he’s found a way out: collaborating with a childhood pal, Little Larry (Jordan Dunn), to rip off his thuggish boss and counterfeiter, Donny (Ashley Hamilton, Iron Man 3 and George’s son).
Meanwhile, unknown to Little Larry, his mother (Rebecca Romijn) and Beckett are starting to be a thing.
More of a dialogue-driven character study of a family steeped in emotional toxicity than the typical B-level thriller (there isn’t one car chase), Phantom Halo is full of surprises, from the soundtrack (using underground L.A. hip-hop group People Under the Stairs) to its rather violent and downbeat ending. While the comic-book allusions are a bit forced, they’re not enough to undermine what turns out to be a well-wrought B-movie in the best sense of the word.
Exclusive: AMC Grapevine Mills; video-on-demand
Director: Antonia Bogdanovich
Cast: Luke Kleintank, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Rebecca Romijn, Sebastian Roché
Rated: R (strong language, violence, brief sexuality)
Running time: 89 min.