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.
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.