Silver Screen: '40 West'

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 in Culture

Silver Screen: '40 West'

A gripping Maine-Made thriller 

by David Treadwell

If you liked "The Usual Suspects," "Mulholland Drive" and "Memento" or, going back, "Psycho" or "House of Wax," then you’ll love "40 West," a psychological thriller created by the talented married team of Jennifer Porter and Dana Packard, both born, raised and living in Maine.

Packard directed the movie, and Porter starred, wrote the script and composed the score. 

I recently attended the Maine premiere of "40 West" at the Nickelodeon Theater in Portland. Although it was bitterly cold outside, the theater inside was warmed by an appreciative audience of friends, supporters and, yes, cast members.

The movie opens with jazz singer Maeve (Porter) performing at a club in rural Texas. Her sultry contralto lulls the audience into calm submission. Shortly after Maeve leaves the club, she gets mugged at a convenience store, her car won’t start, and a kind stranger (Elijah, played by Scott Winters) offers to “help.” From there the stranger takes her to a seedy motel and the horror (or, if this is your genre, the fun) begins. And it never lets up, although quips provide needed relief along the way.

Most of the movie occurs inside the motel room, as three – then four, then five – lowlife characters engage in a psychological drama liberally laced with feelings of envy, revenge and fear and tales of addiction, co-dependency and childhood horrors.

The actors do justice to their respective parts – and much more. In addition to fine performances by Porter and Winters, the movie features Brian A. White as Colin, Maeve’s angry ex-con husband; Kathleen Kimball as Arlene, Colin’s ditzy jail-house girlfriend; and, in a cameo role, Wayne Newton as Bud Sankey, Arlene’s jealous husband. (Don’t expect Newton to break out into song in this film; do expect him to astonish you with how well he portrays a sleazy blowhard with absolutely no redeeming qualities.)

I especially admired the performance of White as the seething Colin, wound so tightly that you sensed an imminent explosion. He was determined to prove to his “darlin’” that he really was sorry for his past transgressions, even though that “proof” took a rather macabre form.

What really impressed me, however, was the seamless professional quality that permeated "40 West," although it was filmed on a very tight budget in just 16 days.

At the end of the showing, Porter, Packard and the movie’s cast members took questions from the audience. Their friendly, candid demeanor contrasted sharply with the foreboding film.

As a writer living in Maine, I might be accused of being biased in favor of Maine-made movies. But I’m not alone in my appreciation for this work."40 West" won a Diamond Award from the California Film Awards, an Award of Merit from the Accolade Competition, an Honorable Mention from the Los Angeles Movie Awards, four Maverick Movie Award nominations, and a Best Feature Film award at Vegas Indie Film Fest. It was the only American movie nominated for Best Feature Film at the Lucerne International Film Festival, and was also a Finalist at Moondance International Film Festival.

So … if your taste runs to psychological thrillers, do yourself (and Maine moviemaking) a favor: Be sure to see "40 West" when it comes to your local theater.  

blog comments powered by Disqus