California has a decades long history of conflict when it comes to picking grapes and the treatment of those who toil in the fields to get them ready for market. The narrative feature written and directed by Eve Symington, Brut Force, presents a dramatic story based on several topics in the California wine country in modern day starting with the racism migrant workers face. Symington’s script also highlights how the local law enforcement is anything else but kind and equal in the investigation of crimes against certain members of the community. Land has and is a precious commodity in this nation and history is well documented how it has been acquired by some individuals at no less than brut force, especially when the owners/settlers live there and are not selling it. The writer/director has created a good script with all these topics that continue to exist and although her feature debut may not be considered a summer blockbuster, it is timely and engaging.

California wine country is beautiful and for many, it is viewed as a destination place for their next vacation. As with other destination vacation spots, the marketing is all about the lovely parts of the area, and minimizes any and all issues found in the region that people do not want to discuss or acknowledge. Symington brings to light the dark, hidden issues in the form of a thriller when newly fired journalist Sloane Sawyer (Lelia Symington, Street Survivors, The Fight Within) returns to her hometown when she learns from the vineyard workers they are being harassed. She does not commit to much, until she is in town and the actions escalate after she starts investigating to where she is being targeted as well.

Not everyone “back home” is anxious to see Sloane with her skills as a journalist/reporter, as well as the fact that she is a fiercely independent and capable young woman who does not back down from the negativity others project. She is also avoiding addressing her mother’s death and dealing with her step – father stuck in the past. The issues that surfaced more loudly since she has been away from her hometown are not ones the powerful people in the community want heard or known of, at any cost.

Lelia Symington is good in her portrayal of a young woman who has a strong character and yet has some personal issues to process. She is great in both the emotional scenes and those that show her physicality when chasing a suspect or coming face to face with the degenerate. Symington also does well with the scenes that show emotion with the vineyard workers she has known from her youth, as well as when she learns about the sudden disappearance of her father’s assistant, Dulce Lopez Castillo (Vico Escorcia, “Texas Rising,” “Coyote Hills”). When a handsome stranger, Tico Reyes (Tyler Posey, “Teen Wolf,” Truth or Dare), shows up looking for Dulce, she is intrigued and steps up her investigation on Dulce and Reyes. It is great to see Posey in this film, now all grown up after his 2002 role as the son of Jennifer Lopez’ character in the film Maid in Manhattan. He has steadily worked in the film and television series industry, and I hope to see his talent in more films.

Sloane discovers much more, with a huge disappointment when she learns Tico’s real identity as the well -educated, dutiful son of the wealthy landowner, Mariela Vicuña (Patricia Velásquez, The Curse of La Llorona, The Mummy). Vicuña has a long history of drama with her step-father as she tries to secure the land that she claims to have belonged to her ancestors. Vicuña turns the tables around on what was done historically to the indigenous of the region. Unfortunately, greed and jealousy has blinded her, and she plays dirty with other human lives and puts them in perilous situations. Sloane does all she can to help others despite the violence and crime. She has loss again, but this time she appears to decide to handle it full strength and not from afar as before.

The work of cinematographer Emilie Silvestri is notable for all the scenic shots of the region, and several close-ups accentuating the intensity of the emotions.

Brut Force will arrive on video-on-demand on Thursday, April 21st from XYZ Films.

Source: XYZ Films

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