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by Jay Seaver

"May give audiences a bit of a lift."
4 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2012: "Booster" doesn't do a whole lot; it could almost survive with its plot removed. It's the sort of independent film that comes across as authentic to those from its neighborhood and has a sharp enough read on its characters to work for those outside. Filmmaker Matt Ruskin doesn't have the resources for a lot of criminal activity, but observes well enough to make up for it.

Simon (Nico Stone) is a shoplifter who has honed his craft well; he can boost items large and small without getting caught, even if they've got an anti-theft tag on them, and while the operation is small - his friend Paul (Adam DuPaul) gives him a "shopping list" and moves the results - it works. To be fair, he is spotted lifting some perfume by a girl that works at the drug store, but Megan (Kristin Dougherty) winds up more interested in getting to know him than reporting him. The trouble is, Simon's brother Sean (Brian McGrail) tends to go for bigger game and has been pinched for armed robbery. He's looking at a long stretch unless Simon pulls a few jobs with the same M.O.

Though there are scenes of Simon casing shops and crime is a part of nearly every conversation, even in a nursing home, Booster is not a caper story with a lot of complex moving parts. Neither brother is pulling especially elaborate jobs, to the extent that Simon lining a bag with aluminum foil to fool anti-theft devices is about as tricky a plan as these guys go in for. There are occasional reminders that Simon had better get started robbing laundromats if he doesn't want his brother to go to jail, but they could almost be notes to the writer/director - didn't he sell this to us as a crime film?

Booster is not really about committing larceny, though - it's more about the pervasiveness of crime in neighborhoods like Simon's, and how a guy like Simon doesn't completely fit into it. Simon has limited skills not connected to stealing, and not being a violent person limits his options further, which makes him tend to second-guess himself. Nico Stone doesn't go too far in either direction to convey this, either with overcompensated tough-guy mannerisms or teary sensitivity. He just spends much of the movie guarded and nervous, and when he does achieve some measure of serenity, he seems almost confused by it. His body language is effective enough to sell half of a climactic scene while wearing a mask.

Of course, the other half is sold by someone dropped into the movie in a non-speaking role because the movie was filming at her business, so maybe a much of that authenticity comes from putting the right person in the right role. Seymour Cassel is probably the only face likely to be familiar, classing things up as a garrulous old crook Simon visits, but the less-experienced folks do well too: Kristin Doughtery's Megan comes across as a nice working-class match for Simon without affecting a strong accent or otherwise pushing too hard, and Adam DuPaul is a genuine pleasure as a guy finding his spot between fence and family man.

Between its fairly short length and abrupt ending, many might find themselves wondering where the movie's third act is. It's a fair response, but upon reflection, there's really not a whole lot more to be said about these guys, and "Booster" does quite well without the fireworks.

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originally posted: 05/03/12 13:21:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 series, click here.

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Directed by
  Matt Ruskin

Written by
  Matt Ruskin

  Nico Stone
  Adam DuPaul
  Seymour Cassel
  Kristin Dougherty
  Brian McGrail

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