Directed by Robert l Butler Jr/ Reviewed by Antonio Rozich
When it comes to independent cinema, there are specific genres filmmakers avoid, and one is a crime drama. Although inspired by the likes of Scarface, Unusual Suspects, or Reservoir Dogs, it’s challenging to pull off a great crime movie without spending more than you can afford.
But, every so often, a movie comes along that proves different, and The Alliance by Robert L Butler Jr is one of them.
Although it’s self-evident from the first scene that Butler worked on a limited budget, crew, equipment, locations, and likely time, that didn’t stop him from creating a solid crime drama.
Right from the bat, the film starts strong, wasting no time, forcing the viewer to get sucked right into the wormhole of crime, murder, and distrust. The main characters start small and slowly work their up only to realize that by climbing the ladder of success, they’ve been digging their hole of despair as well. The classic Scarface line of events, some might say.
But what makes The Alliance different is the numerous cast. Even 60 minutes in, the audience is introduced to new characters. In filmmaking, this is also called a considerable risk. By introducing more and more characters long after the narrative has been established, and the audience gets tied to the characters can pull everything out of balance. It can easily disturb the tempo and make people feel as if they are watching a completely different movie altogether.
But in the case of The Alliance, it’s different. Each new character slowly builds the plot, making it stronger and more intriguing. Although some characters make a more substantial point than the other, all of it revolves around the main topic that’s slowly revealed right before the audience’s eyes.
As an example, around the one hour mark, Chocolate (played by Mandy Baker) is introduced. A professional assassin turned mother who wants her past to stay in the past and focus on her small family. Unfortunately, as the plot develops, Chocolate realizes it’s not easy to get out of something you’ve been a part for years.
Although unlike other main characters, she doesn’t look for success, she only wants to be left alone; she gets the same treatment as the shadowy fingers of crime wrap around her.
To top everything up, Baker does a fantastic job of bringing this snarky yet compassionate character to life.
Chocolate is just one example of a well-written character in The Alliance, but she’s great to provide why exactly the numerous characters work.
Another strong element of the film is the dialogue. Characters will often have witty comebacks whenever pushed in the corner or just found in an everyday situation. And the dialogue creates special moments, that although aren’t crucial to the overall plot progress, make the movie more entertaining.
It’s evident that plenty of time went into making the dialogue work and pop out. It pays off as although a serious crime drama; there are many moments where the characters will make you smirk, possibly even laugh with their comments.
Creating a movie is reading your audience’s mind in advance. Not only have you figure out what will make them jump in their sit, but you need to be capable to imagine it in the future.
As such, an unwritten rule of filmmaking it that every element, from the camera angle to the dialogue, need to move the plot forward. To a great extent that’s completely true, there is a trap of getting caught in the idea and thus forgetting to have. And if you as a filmmaker have fun, then you can be pretty sure the audience watching will be entertained as well.
That’s the exact point the dialogue hits in The Alliance. Yes, it’s a serious movie that revolves around plot points of death, betrayal, and crime. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be fun moments.
The only thing that’s needed is the director to know where the thin line is between overdoing and making it just right. Fortunately, Robert L Butler Jr finds the perfect balance and hits a 100% homerun with his 2019 film, The Alliance.