Cost of a Soul review

The winner of the AMC Theaters/Rogue Pictures Big Break Movie Contest is a tale of two Iraqi war veterans who return home to their troubled lives in North Philadelphia.  Tommy is of Irish descent (you can tell because bagpipes play when he’s on-screen) with a wife and a young daughter waiting for him; DD is greeted by his mother and younger brother James who has recently gotten involved in the drug-dealing thug life of their older brother Darnell.  It’s also worth noting that DD enjoys playing the saxophone, a throwaway device that never amounts to anything.  Tommy is soon pulled back into the local Irish gangster underworld while DD struggles to save James from the streets.  Cliched characters unconvincingly spout introspective thoughts, Tommy provides Taxi Driver-lite-like narration, and the lives of these two families collide in absurdly unpredictable (because they’re absolutely inconceivable) manners that lead to a laughable failure of a finale.

Cost of a Soul is an abysmal film that’s built upon the tired cinematic conventions of the street gangster genre.  It’s characters’ attitudes are pulled from like-minded films of the past hence their dated ethnic slurs and suitably silly lines like “You ain’t my father!”  Philly-based, first-time writer/director Sean Kirkpatrick has possibly delivered the first film shot entirely in medium to extreme close-ups.  There is absolutely no visual depth, the backgrounds alternate between blurry and blown out.  And, Philly tourism department take note, never before has our fair city looked so dismal.  Stores are shuttered and streets are deserted, which, combined with the film’s bland, murky color scheme, creates a city (and a story for that matter) absolutely devoid of joy and beauty.  Kirkpatrick obviously sought to tell a gritty tale of two war heroes who leave one battlefield only to enter another ala Rolling Thunder, but the result is a heavy-handed mess that reaches Crash-like levels of absurdity.  It’s a shame that honorable war heroes are portrayed in such a manner; actual soldiers are currently overseas risking their lives for their country while Kirkpatrick is safe at home setting cinema back a few decades.

The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Carrie Rickey called this a “haunting and remarkable feature debut.”  Just sayin’.

Cost of a Soul opens in Philly-area theaters today.

Official site.

UPDATE:  I’ve received a few e-mails from like-minded viewers this weekend concerning this film, one of which reminded me of the inclusion of a glowing suitcase straight out of Pulp Fiction.  Ugh.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

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