By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Directed by Dan Petrie, Jr. (Toy Soldiers) and written by Rachel Long and Brian Pittman is an Austin Film Festival success story. Long and Pittman caught the attention of Dan Petrie, Jr. at the Driskill Hotel bar with their screenplay about a surfer-turned-Marine coping with the consequences of revenge. Scott Eastwood stars as John. He and his little brother Ben (Chris Bochu) still live at home with their Bohemian parents in a small, close-knit surfing community in California. When not working in construction, their father Trick (Jeff Fahey) joins his sons in the water and their mother Shelia (Rita Wilson) spends most of her day drinking and smoking weed. There is much racial tension on the beach between the white surfers and the Mexicans who have to share the sand and water with them. When Ben, an accomplished surfer with the potential to go pro, gets murdered, John feels pressured by his family and other members of the community to seek revenge. Once he follows through, John and his family must face the aftermath of the violence.
With Dawn Patrol, Long and Pittman have written a compelling piece that could serve as a treatise on race relations, violence, and the casualties of war. Their multi-themed story is smartly written and hits all the right dramatic notes. Some of Petrie’s choices as a director are questionable, however. Some of the dramatic scenes play out a bit cheesily and actually got a few chuckles from the audience. Some of my colleagues noted some of the music choices also added to the cheese factor. While the music didn’t bother me that much, I do think a more restrained score or removal of some music in some scenes would add to the dramatic effect. As the old adage says, less is more. On the more positive side, I found the performances of the cast first rate. Eastwood performs well as the lead character and Fahey also stands out as the tormented father trying to do the right thing. The film also features solid work by Rita Wilson, Chris Bochu, Kim Matula, and Dendrie Taylor. This movie is definitely worth checking out for solid writing of Rachel Long and Brian Pittman and I hope to see their names in future film projects.