Film — Dangerous Crosswinds

Dangerous Crosswinds

by Amy Diaz

A reporter uncovers a friend’s shady past in the murder mystery Dangerous Crosswinds, a locally produced movie (written, directed and produced by Bill Millios) premiering Thursday, May 26 at the Palace Theatre.

I have to say right off the bat that I know the film’s composer, Jeff Rapsis (Hippo’s classical music reporter and the paper’s co-owner). This and the fact that the movie is an independent, locally produced with a budget that is minute when compared with, say, the recent Hollywood suspense movie The Interpreter, absolutely color my approach to the film. Having said that, the movie is an interesting example of what can now be done with digital equipment and a small budget. The Hollywood system is still the most effective way to get a movie national distribution, but with more filmmakers able to produce a higher quality product for less money their chance of finding a way into that system (and makeing a name for themselves on the independent circuit) has to increase.

Dangerous Crosswinds sets up an intriguing plot — the movie begins with a homicide where we know exactly who killed whom and how. The mystery, as the movie unfolds, is finding out the backstory, the why. And, adding to the story’s central plot, the killer is also the investigator, our eyes and ears for solving the case.

Harry Toland (Larry Jay Tish) is a reporter at a New York newspaper. He leaves the job after a book he has written makes him unpopular with management and returns to Hampton Beach to rethink his life. He takes a job for the summer at the local paper, the Hampton Eagle, run by his long-time friend Hugh (Wendell Goodrum). Harry’s new surroundings also bring him closer to an old mentor, Alec Holbrook (Don LaBranche), and his wife, a former US Senator from Maine, Tracy (Mary Simmen). But when Harry sees his friends again, he’s distressed to learn that Tracy is suffering from a severe case of Alzheimer’s. She seems trapped in a body that can no longer even communicate with the outside world. Helpfully, Alec and Tracy had discussed end-of-life issues with Harry many years earlier. The couple agreed, they told him, that neither would ever want to prolong their suffering and would give each other the permission to see that that suffering did not continue. (Harry is also a big fan of this idea, having watched his mother suffer with pancreatic cancer.) Alec reminds Harry of the conversation and they devise a plan to painlessly end Tracy’s life in a way that won’t cast any suspicion on either of the men.

Harry goes through with it and is at peace with his actions until he begins to learn things that lead him to believe all may not be as it appears. Using his reporter’s instincts, Harry then begins an investigation, essentially, of his own crime.

The plot unfolds in a very methodical way, with Harry slowly gathering clues by visiting people from Alec and Tracy’s past in New Hampshire and Maine. This process is perhaps unnecessarily long, introducing us to a few too many Yankee-accented characters (or, if you prefer, chaaraactaaas) and putting a little too fine a point on the investigation’s finds. The movie ends with a chunk of exposition that is also unnecessary — brevity would have had more impact in this case.

The acting in the movie is serviceable, though occasionally uneven, with actors a little unsure of what do with themselves when not speaking. The lead character is perhaps one of the more realistic portrayals of a reporter I have ever seen on film. His obsession with a topic is understandable because of his own involvement in the mystery but also because such single-mindedness is common among the better investigative reporters at papers big and small.  The only time Tish rings false is when he’s called to display great anger—for whatever reason, these scenes seem out of whack with the character as we’ve come to know him.

These points and some technical unevenness aside, Dangerous Crosswinds does a good job of presenting us with an entertaining plot. It’s worth a look and is, hopefully, a forerunner of more locally-produced movies.

- Amy Diaz

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