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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.10.11] review drama crime

Year: 2011
Directors: Ranju & Sanjit Majumdar
Writers: Ranju & Sanjit Majumdar
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

The college campus is a breeding ground for all sorts of things both good and bad. For the most part, we see the campuses on film as places of comedy and horror but rarely do we see the darker, more realistic side of the college life but Determinism provides an interesting look at what you might find.

Taking place in a small college town, Determinism introduces Alec, a guy on a losing streak. He’s flunked out of school and his family has come into hard financial times so going home isn’t an option. Broke and with nothing to lose, he devises a plan to steal a local dealer’s stash to make a buck. He employs the help of his best friend Tristan and the pair, after a little preparation, set off to rob the drug dealer’s place which sets off a chain reaction that ends horribly.

The truth is, Sanjit and Ranju Majumdar’s story isn’t particularly fresh – we’ve seen the down and out try to go gangster in many a film. What appealed to me after seeing the trailer was the fact that this was dealing with some other interesting themes, particularly those of race and disenfranchised youth trying to eek out a life for themselves in whatever way possible. The result is a mixed bag. The ideas are here but the dialogue is largely forgettable and badly delivered by obvious amateurs who sometimes speak so fast, there’s a sense they’ve memorized their lines and want to get them out before they’re lost again. The single exception is co-director Sanjit Majumdar who takes on the extra duty of portraying Alec, the mastermind behind the plan. Majumdar plays the character as a quiet, chain smoking man who is desperate to make something of himself yet he never comes across as a thug – just a lost soul in search of salvation.

Even with the subpar acting, I found myself drawn into this story which Ranju Majumdar beautifully captures and scores (on a project this small, the directors have their fingers in all the pots). It opens with snowfall and in combination with the haunting score which runs throughout the film, there’s a sense of doom at every new turn. It’s a great accomplishment on the Majumdar’s limited budget and suggests good things for future project.

For the most part, I found Determinism to be an interesting film with some big ideas. The script could have used a once over as it often felt like it was trying too hard to be authentic and just came across as guys, mostly quite badly, playing gangsters (or wannabe’s) but whenever the story shifted back to Alec, the film seemed to find itself again. I was also impressed with the film’s integration and thoughtful approach to race relations and how different minority groups interact with each other. These interactions are quite central to the story and yet they often seem to come up in passing and the Majumdar’s wisely choose not to dwell on them adding to the authentic feel of those interactions. I would love to see them tackle this subject more thoroughly in a different framework.

Despite its problems, most of which are attributed to lack of funding for actors and better equipment, Determinism shows promise from two talented filmmakers.

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