The fact that Columbus Short, one-time “gladiator in a suit” in Scandal, starred, made me snatch up the opportunity for a screener of The Girl Is In Trouble. The fact that he crashed and burned in a cocaine-induced bender notwithstanding, Short has portrayed his characters with inner fire and outer calm. Here, he delivers as August, an out-of-work DJ, whose brief encounter with Signe (Alicja Bachleda-Curuś) leads to a thrilling us-against-the-world entry into the world of detective noir.
Filmed in 2010, the film’s chief bad guy is Jesse Spencer’s (Chicago Fire) Nicholas, who Signe captures on film as he suffocates a drug dealer. But instead of simplifying things, after the video is captured, things diverge. The man Nicholas killed is Angel’s (Wilmer Valderrama) little brother, and Angel spices things up as he chases after Nicholas, too. It’s a noir-like, Raymond Chandler-esque tale where the girl is in trouble but she might be trouble, too.
For a film I’ve heard nothing about, this one was pretty solid. The casting is dead on with Short, Bachleda, and Valderamma, and a supporting role thrown to Paz de la Huerta as someone with information on Nicholas. Julius Onah, who is working on projects with Will Smith and J.J. Abrams next, directs everything in a way that feels like it might explode at any moment. [Just to be on the record, Spike Lee exec produced this, and those other two names are nothing to blow smoke at.] It all revolves around Short though, who growls out his lines and grinds up the narrative with underlying humor and powerful potential.
But this film isn’t just a complicated, mood-induced thriller. It’s also an exploration of class, money, power, and unfulfilled potential. Yes, Nicholas is the murderer with lots of money behind him, but he has more in common with August and Angel than you might think. All three men are the result of failed dreams and poor decisions, and all of them struggle to claim power in the world they live in than they’ve actually earned.
The Girl Is In Trouble is an entertaining flick with solid action and acting, and well-directed moods. Hopefully, Short will bounce back from his fall, and only time will tell if Onah will soar with the his own high expectations. rating: borrow it