‘Dawn Patrol’ Movie Review: Scott Eastwood Shows Potential In This Unimpressive Drama
Dawn Patrol proves that Scott Eastwood could become a strong leading man in Hollywood, but he still has a long road ahead of him.
Eastwood, son of Clint Eastwood, may have proven himself to be an adequate hunk with his leading role in The Longest Ride, but the film’s lackluster reviews and poor box office performance left Eastwood with a lot more to prove, namely that he can act and be a box office draw. Dawn Patrol, an independent film that has had little promotion (Eastwood himself hasn’t so much as tweeted about its release), will most definitely not help the actor on the box office front, but it should make audiences sit up and pay attention to his potential as an actor.
In Dawn Patrol, Eastwood plays John, a soft-spoken surfer who lives on a rough stretch of the California coast where white, lower class surfer bros clash with “Mexican gangs.” He makes money fixing up surfboards, but it’s unclear whether he uses his hard earned cash for anything other than weed. He spends his days looking for waves and getting high with his brother, Ben (The Vampire Diaries’ Chris Brochu), who is the golden child of the family despite being an utter jerk. Ben is almost a professional surfer, and the family, which also includes an alcoholic father, Trick (Jeff Fahey), and a selfish mother, Shelia (Rita Wilson), pretty much lives off of Ben’s surf competition winnings. At first, the film appears content with exploring the hardships of their lives. Trick and Shelia are both quick to anger and Ben’s volatile playboy persona gets him into trouble pretty much every second of every day. Not to mention the crippling financial struggles faced by their friends and neighbors, who are frequently being forced out of their homes. This is when Dawn Patrol is at its strongest writing-wise, as it immerses the audience in a wacky, strange and specific family dynamic. Unfortunately, the plot takes a turn when Ben is found shot dead on the beach, leaving his parents distraught and his brother lost.
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The script, written by Rachel Long and Brian Pittman, feels like the ambitious final project of Screenwriting 101 student – a solid base that gets lost somewhere along the confusing murder plot. But, the writing is flawed from the very beginning. Long and Pittman made the inexplicable decision to open the film with John, in military clothing, being held at gunpoint by a mysterious woman. He tells her he will take her ‘where she wants to go,’ and adds, “One more thing: I’m going to tell you my story on the way.” The film then launches into a flashback, which turns out to be the heart of the story – his last adventures as a stoner surfer with his brother and Ben’s murder. This framing of the story is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is the forced line of dialogue that sets it up, but it’s mainly problematic because the story between John and this mystery woman, which is picked up a few times throughout the film, is too confusing to be intriguing. This failed plot device is actually a result of another mishandled storyline, in which John feels compelled to murder his brother’s killer – a convoluted murder plot that comes to a shockingly confounding end.
Dawn Patrol could have been compelling. In fact, thanks to solid performances from Wilson, Fahey, Eastwood and Kim Matula, who plays Ben’s volatile on-and-off girlfriend Donna, some scenes were quite engaging. The characters were all interesting, flawed and beautiful, but the tangled murder plot reduced any character development to a subplot when it should have received top billing. It’s worth noting that Ben’s death acts as a catalyst for some exception work by Eastwood, Wilson and Fahey, but the action plot following Ben’s death is nothing short of ridiculous. Eastwood, in particular, was born to brood beautifully on screen – there is no question. Something about his face and sensibility allows him to go from sexy smolder to puppy dog in seconds, giving him the potential to play strong and vulnerable in an instant. Eastwood’s performance is, at times, extremely promising, but it’s impossible to tell how good of an actor he could be in this muddled, poorly written film.
In the end, the poor writing and strange direction from Daniel Petrie Jr. keep Dawn Patrol from being anything more than watchable.
Dawn Patrol opens in theaters and online Friday, June 5.
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