Out of Exile (2023) Review: Great crime thrillers often depend on two aspects – intricate world-building and inducing genuine emotions into its twisted world. If it is done well, you revel in the ride of emotions it provides while visiting a universe possibly unfamiliar to you. Several directors all over the world have managed to bring their unique take on it. Scorsese has a masterful command over the characters in his films since he understands the nitty-gritty of the world he is depicting, on a deeper level. As a result, those characters seem believable, and their dialogues plausible. Michael Mann is unique not just due to his neon-lit cityscapes, but also because he understands the high stakes in his characters’ lives and presents the resulting thrill with authenticity.
‘Out of Exile’, written & directed by Kyle Kauwika Harris, fails at the primary requirement of being original. This crime thriller presents us with various characters and their interloping journeys, leading them toward unseemly paths. Gabe Russel (Adam Hampton), who has been recently paroled, gets out with the hope of a better life. For him, better means normalcy, which he had not experienced before. He seems especially tired of the life he had led until then and the mistakes he made as a result of his work. He was distant from his family and his daughter, Dawn (Hayley McFarland), who now works at a café. She doesn’t wish to have any sort of communication with him.
Gabe walks the path of his new life with immense guilt for not being able to be there for her. We sense his strong desire to make things right. While not being able to fulfill the duties of fatherhood himself, he has also been on the other side. Gabe has always yearned for the approval of his disappointing father though he has never been able to receive it. Besides delving into this familial relationships, the film also introduces us to a crime thriller narrative. Right after getting out of prison, he decides to rob a bank with two others he trusts. However, it gets botched at the very last moment. They are left with no money and the police are looking for their traces. Hence, it proves to be of no use to them.
While mapping out a way of getting caught in this act, Gabe tries to mend the broken pieces of his family. His brother, Wesley (Kyle Jacob Henry) does not have a pleasing relationship with him either. After returning from war, he has become a victim of the struggle of the crime world. Due to his anger issues, he even gets into senseless brawls anywhere to blow off steam. He and Gabe do not see eye to eye. Only the robbing incident brings them together, where the fear of getting caught and the hope of a better future make them want to be a team.
As they try to work on the emotional wounds in their family, an FBI agent, Brett (Ryan Merriman), is on the lookout for the robbers and is determined to find them. Not just Russels but Brett also suffers from father issues, which is where the mighty resolve of following up a case stems from. In these grown men battling daddy issues drama, the crime thriller opens up to a world that is a little too familiar to take seriously. Most of its narrative elements are borrowed, and dialogues are derivative. So, it becomes a struggle to stay invested in the emotional stakes.
The technical department has done its task in a dedicated manner to make us believe in the grimness of the world they inhabit and their emotional landscapes. Charles E. Elmore’s cinematography and his team is perhaps the only factor that makes you feel a certain sense of darkness in the world they inhabit.
However, the film never rises over its limitations to become a potent drama. The dialogues are sometimes so laughably derivative that you even end up laughing at moments that are supposed to be somber. Slang terms are added to their dialogues, where they feel inorganic, leading to moments of similarly unintended laughter. The street-smartness added to the FBI agents’ language also appears largely contrived. Overall, Out of Exile is a a tormented white man drama that feels familiar to make us stay invested in the characters’ emotional upheavals.