REVIEW: ‘Flinch’ (2021) is Perhaps a Little Too Genre-Curious

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Flinch wants to be so many things…However in its search to be something exciting, it skips over what makes its inspirations work so well”

The revival of the mob movie began with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather in 1972. What separated Coppola’s work  from its predecessors is his choice to characterize the mafia members as men still trying to keep their peace with God while dedicating their lives to devilish deeds. There was an added level of moral complexity that centered around the men’s relationships with Catholicism and their families. Flinch, the directorial debut of Cameron Van Hoy, attempts to be another complex character study but simply can’t find its footing long enough to create a compelling narrative.

Joe Doyle (Daniel Zovatto) knows he’s got a faulty moral compass; his devout Catholic upbringing taught him as such. The fact he’s taken up his father’s hitman position for boss Lee (David Proval) complicates his virtuous standing more. He tries to minimize further sinning and keeps to himself off the clock. He rewatches The Outlaw by the light of his neon red crucifix and only speaks to his betta fish and equally devout mother Gloria (Cathy Moriarty). This precocious ethical balance is threatened when Mia (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) – the secretary of one of his victims – witnesses Joe carrying out the hit. Because she didn’t flinch at her boss’ death, Joe determines God wants her to live and decides to hold her hostage as a sick form of protection. Now he’s stuck balancing the need to protect his mother, the fear of being on the wrong side of Lee’s business, and figuring out what Mia is capable of. 

What made The Godfather and movies of its ilk work is a primary focus on characterization. Flinch skips over the bulk of creating rich characters in lieu of tonal shifts and the occasional contrived plot twist. Characters like target Ed Terzian (Tom Segura) or the gang in the film’s opener are simply Grand Theft Auto characters brought to the silver screen. Lee and his son James (Buddy Duress) are the biggest gabas to ever gool since The Sopranos. The most egregious lack of a personality comes from Mia who is stuck with two staples of action-film female leads: manipulation and sexiness. She fits a niche somewhere between femme fatale and manic pixie dream girl which suits her purpose but essentially kills any sprout of characterization beyond her mysteriousness.

The only successful relationship portrayed is the one between Joe and Gloria. They’re both extremely codependent and incredibly overprotective– more out of necessity than anything. They’re all the other has outside of God Himself. It’s their closeness that creates the tension when Mia is brought to the house for safekeeping: Gloria’s experience and anxiety are at war with Joe’s ethics and hormones. While it’s more Bates than Corleone, Mia even directly calls out Joe as a perverted mama’s boy early on, the love the mother and son share is the closest to depth Flinch captures.

Flinch wants to be so many things: a mafia movie or a perverted meet cute with a touch of thriller mixed in. However in its search to be something exciting, it skips over what makes its inspirations work so well. The film sits on one core relationship and some cool aesthetics with all ancillary elements left to flounder.

Dir: Cameron Van Hoy

Prod: Armen Aghaean, Rod Hamilton, Cameron Eldred, Justin Smith

Cast: Cathy Moriarty, Daniel Zovatto, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, David Proval, Buddy Duress, Tom Segura

Release Date: January 21, 2021 (VOD)

Image courtesy of Arbor Pictures