Review: Restitution DVD

Restitution DVDSTUDIO: Monterey | DIRECTOR: Lance Kawas | CAST: Mark Bierlein, Mena Suvari, Tom Arnold, William Sadler, C. Thomas Howell
RELEASE DATE: 11/8/2011 | PRICE: DVD $26.95
BONUSES: commentary, behind-the-scenes footage
SPECS: R | 101 min. | Crime thriller | 1.78:1 widescreen | stereo 5.1 | no subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Restitution movie scene

Mena Suvari might be involved in her ex-boyfriend's murder in Restitution.

The shores of Lake Ontario, its waterfront condos and shadowy back alleys, provide the setting for Restitution, a stylishly photographed low-budget thriller.

In the movie, Bryan Spikes, a sleazy insurance investigator, blows into town tracking fraud linked to a prominent businessman (Rush‘s William Sadler, seen briefly picking up his paycheck). The people Spikes tries to question end up murdered. So does he.

One year later, Alex Forrester (Mark Bierlein, who also wrote and produced the film) turns up claiming to be writing a book about Spikes — more questions and more murders. Nothing is what it seems: The local barkeep (Mena Suvari, American Beauty) Spikes had romanced; Alex’s inappropriate neighbor (Tom Arnold, True Lies); the powerful family with a secret; and Alex, himself.

Director Lance Kawas peopled his film with fresh characters faces, giving it a sometimes comic/sometimes surreal texture. Among the leads, erstwhile starlet Suvari has grown into an off-key beauty, avoiding hardened bartender cliches in a sensitive, knowing performance. Tom Arnold brings a blast of raw energy; if some of his riffs (“soft erections,” “gay hugs”) seem culled from his stand-up act, they add to the character and the overall sense of disquiet. Bierlein contributes a subtly gauged performance, bringing off a shocking plot twist. The other familiar face, that of C. Thomas Howell (Grandview U.S.A.), has a little more screen time than Sadler and registers strongly. I must, however, question his casting as Sadler’s son. He can barely pass for a younger brother.

Restitution‘s low budget does show at times: Scenes on deserted, extras-free streets; exposition through newspaper clippings; pivotal characters introduced on too-convenient videotape. But that’s the fun of this kind of independent filmmaking. After a summer of mega-priced megabombs (insert reader’s choice), I admire Kawas and company for bringing off so much with so much less.

The DVD doesn’t have a heap of special features, but there is a standard making-of featurette and Kawas discusses the ins and outs of the production on his commentary track.

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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.