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‘5LBS OF PRESSURE’ Film Review: a bold and emotionally charged triumph of independent cinema

Phil Allocco‘s latest film, 5 Lbs of Pressure, is a powerful drama chronicling the rocky road to redemption. Luke Evans (Message From the King, The Girl on the Train) gives a powerful performance as Adam, a man seeking to reintegrate back into society after serving 16 years in prison for murder. Returning to his old stomping grounds, he faces an embittered community that shuns him, including the volatile brother of the boy he killed, who is itching for revenge.

But rather than treating Adam as a case study, the film observes with care and honesty his tortuous attempt to piece his life back together. Meanwhile, Rory Culkin (Lords of Chaos, The Last Thing Mary Saw) plays Mike, a struggling musician who desperately wants to break free from the grip of his drug-dealing uncle (Alex PettyferThe Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, Sunrise). When Mike and Adam’s paths fatefully cross, violence erupts as the past collides with the present.

The screenplay was developed over the course of 15 years. Growing up in a world where stabbed kids barely made headlines, Allocco draws from a deep well of intimate knowledge, and it’s clear from the outset that this is his story to tell.

In an unrecognisable turn, Evans fully embodies the role of Adam, an ex-con seeking redemption in an unforgiving community. Shedding his usual charm, Evans disappears into Adam’s gruff accent and weary reserve, portraying a man who takes life one day at a time. Any larger meaning comes from the viewer’s deductions rather than from heavy-handed exposition. His strained relationship with his ex-partner (Stephanie Leonidas – “Snatch”) and their son, Jimmy (Rudy PankoUncharted), provides the real emotional core of the film. Jimmy is initially unaware that Adam is his father, and both the early awkward encounters and the later revelations are masterfully played out through nuanced acting and thoughtful writing, allowing the audience to connect deeply with both characters as they grapple with their complicated connection.

Rory Culkin’s portrayal of Mike is a striking counterpoint to Adam’s character. While Adam longs to reconnect with his family, Mike is desperately searching for a way out of the criminal clutches of his drug-dealing uncle Leff (Pettyfer). Mike’s attempts to break free only ensnare him further, sucking him deeper into the underworld despite his best efforts. Culkin brings a sincere sympathy to Mike, capturing his frustration as he strives in vain for a semblance of a normal life. Though the odds are stacked against him, you can’t help but root for Mike, knowing his intentions are pure even as circumstances conspire to thwart his dreams of going straight.

As evidenced by these two protagonists, the film deftly draws us into the morally ambiguous world of its two main characters – criminals with murderous pasts yet bent on redemption. Despite our better judgement, by the end of the film we find ourselves rooting for these flawed characters. It’s a sign of great storytelling when morally questionable leads can still win the audience over. We know we shouldn’t root for them, yet we desperately want these criminals to find the salvation they seek.

To elaborate any further on the plot and characters would be doing a disservice to your viewing pleasure. The best way to watch this film is to go in blind, allowing the Tarantino-esque twists and shocking finale to catch you completely off guard.

Allocco has produced a truly palpable slice of criminal life. The authenticity of the film’s gritty drama pulls the audience into this underworld, revealing the protagonist’s struggles, regrets and glimmers of hope. Instead of relying on action-thriller clichés, Allocco keeps the focus on the complexity of his characters and their emotional truths. The result is a triumph of independent cinema – a bold and emotionally charged experience that unflinchingly captures the gritty complexities of the human condition in the criminal world.

VERDICT:

5lbs of Pressure releases in Theaters, On Digital and On Demand in the US and Canada on March 8 and will streaming in the UK on Prime Video this 24 April.

Where to watch 5lbs of Pressure
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