The revenge story is far from being a new concept. Whether the source of anger is getting picked on at school or being left for dead at your wedding, revenge films tend to steer towards exaggerated stories full of flamboyant costumes or “crazy” ninjas in tuxedos.
In his film debut, writer/director Michael Morrissey crafts a story that eschews the trappings of the over-the-top scenarios revenge films are shaped around. Rather, Boy Wonder keeps its characters and story grounded to depict a gritty and realistic film about what happens when somebody is overtaken and driven by revenge.
Boy Wonder is about a high school student, Sean Donovan (Caleb Steinmeyer), who witnesses the murder of his Mother at a young age. Driven by a notion of guilt or redemption for being unable to find her murderer, Sean moonlights as a vigilante, taking his anger out on pimps and gang bangers in Brooklyn, New York. However, with the emergence of a hot-shot detective Teresa Ames (Zulay Henao) and her high-profile case with a convicted killer with connections, Sean’s driven even further with his obsession for the truth.
At its core, Boy Wonder is about a young man who lets his obsession take over and control his life. His nightly adventures taking out the scum of Brooklyn’s streets is contrasted with his daytime life as a straight-A introvert, with visits to the gym to pass the time. But moving away from the base of the story is an analysis of a father-son relationship and how the effects of child abuse and drunk Dads can shape a young child. Sean’s Father, Terry Donovan (Bill Sage) is a reformed drunk, yet Sean is unable to forget nor forgive his past. The story comes to an unfortunate end where Sean’s obsession with revenge is quickly replaced with a feeling of guilt.
The psychological thriller is very reliant on Steinmeyer’s performance as the main character and he definitely doesn’t disappoint. There is a level of subtlety to Steinmeyer as he balances a smart, level-headed character who is consumed with the aforementioned obsession. To complement him is Sage’s role as Terry. Playing as a reformed drunk, his character calls for a sense of humility and remorse for his past as his attempts to connect with his son tend to go ignored or unwanted. As a contrast, Henao’s role as Teresa is a bit shoddy. There is a sub-plot about her own problems with her past as she struggles to balance her rise as a lead detective and the dissolution of her marriage. As round of a character that Sean is, Teresa’s pretty static. It seemed like her character didn’t call for the level of depth the other two did, which is unfortunate because you can tell that Henao was acting reserved or held back.
The film is technically sound as the editing is amazing and the cinematography matches the gritty tone of the plot. It is definitely an independent film, so it isn’t bogged down by flashy special effects or anything that would take away from its realism, which is definitely the way the film should be.
The film is being inaccurately promoted as a “superhero” film. While the story has shades of Batman or Daredevil, it is an unfair comparison to make. Rather, Boy Wonder is the realistic depiction of a hero-esque story, possibly like what Bruce Wayne were to do if he weren’t trapped in superhero conventions. Don’t get me wrong, though: Boy Wonder is definitely an original story that creeps behind you and takes you in. If the film is any indication of future ventures, Morrissey and Steinmeyer definitely have great careers ahead of them.
Liz Rugg: Boy Wonder is a solid film. For a bunch of young bucks on an independent film budget, the movie is really pretty great. However, there are some things that could possibly be stronger. For instance (the absolutely lovely) Zulay Henao, while doing a pretty decent job overall, sometimes doesn’t feel quite like a police detective, especially in scenes where she runs. But it’s really nothing too egregious. The best part of the film is simply the surprisingly deviant story, how that story operates within the context of an unreliable narrator, and the connotations of moral ambiguity. 80 – Great.