Anthony Z. James
Anthony Z. James
Being in prison sucks - especially when visiting for extended periods. But that's kind of the point, right? A deterrent created in an attempt to keep people on the right side of the law - and no reader, I won't get into the prison for profit debate - that's another story. With all that said, it's what happens after serving a long sentence that can always make for a great yarn on our smaller, silver screens. Especially with longer periods of incarceration, such as the ten years this movie's protagonist, Tony has been away, a great story can be crafted about the drastic changes in other people's lives. How different, things must seem to an ex-convict returning home. Or, on the flip side, how much things haven't really changed at all. Perhaps old friends and enemies have grown up to be replaced by newer, younger faces. Or, life-long criminals have been made or broken, group dynamics change, jobs become harder to come by, and families form or grow. For Tony, all he wants after being released is to live his life. Get a job and connect with his son, who he hasn't really seen during the decade of imprisonment. Admirable goals, but not so easy for a convict - and in this case Tony's son Conor has his own adult problems. And quite possibly the temper of his old man.
It may seem like a lot of what I wrote above is pretty standard stuff but in fact, I've outlined the underlying plot points of "Ghost" from writer, director, Anthony Z. James - and even some of the main ones. "Ghost" focuses on Tony and his son, but doesn't shy away from all the people in between. Conor's mother and girlfriend, an old enemy who becomes central to this story, and all the people in between. This story is about overcoming adversity and how sometimes, you simply can't pull yourself out of the bed you made - sooner or later, all the chickens come home to roost, right? I'd be lying if I wrote that anything truly gets accomplished in this film, except perhaps Tony getting to spend time with his son - but there's no storybook happy ending here or moral message. Except maybe to say not to be a criminal - and yet "Ghost" is such a real feeling story. Real grit and true to life situations. Life ain't no movie and Anthony Z. James doesn't make like it is. But this film, especially the last act, is just so damn entertaining. More on that below.
"Ghost" starts off as a rather slow movie, no question. Not a bad movie, just slow to get started. It feels, especially during the first act, that the flick is a little indulgent and contains more than a little filler. A lot of walking and scenery instead of zeroing in on the story itself. Again, it's not bad - just slower. The last quarter of the movie is excellent, I want to just put that out there. It's this reviewer's humble opinion, that had fifteen or so minutes been shaved off the length, "Ghost" would have went from a really great three and a half stars, to an excellent four. But this will be for its audience to decide ultimately. One thing's for sure, a little slow or not, the final act is well worth the wait.
On the plus side is the casting. Anthony Z. James has done a splendid job in creating these wonderful characters, and in casting and directing them. Our leads Tony and Conor, are excellently brought to life by Anthony Mark Streeter and Nathan Hamilton. There's no other way to describe these performances other than to say real. Nothing overly dramatic or underdone - everything felt just right. The supporting cast also handled themselves excellently - especially Russell Barnett who although isn't forever present in the film, he sure feels like he is. Another thing of note is the look of the film. Normally, unless a movie looks bad I don't really comment but in this case, I feel I should. "Ghost" was filmed entirely with an iPhone. And truthfully, only someone involved in film would notice right away - for the most part. The look may not always be perfect, but it's sure worth mentioning. Well done.
At the end of the day? "Ghost" takes a story that is borderline common and puts its own spin on things. It is a little slower to start but still good enough to hold the eyes of its viewers. Well, for me it did anyhow. The explosive final act was excellent, and I honestly have no issues recommending this movie to anyone looking for some good drama in their lives. Not overly violent, but dramatic for sure. A solid three and a half stars and on a personal note, I'm so very glad I got handed this film to review. Time well spent.