This film rivetingly reveals that in that life, real life there is no such thing as “A Safe House.”
Amidst family crime dramas that populate the small screen (Blue Bloods, The Good Wife) and the big screen, (The Town, The Departed, Mystic River), A Safe House delivers a unique story line. Audiences identify with the characters, their motivations, quirks, strengths, and flaws.
Triple threat (writer, director, producer) Stephen Schioppo, provides a stunning example of storytelling from which other upcoming film makers can learn; every great film, starts with an outstanding script.
Schioppo provides multi-dimensional characters, such as Bill Solino (Danny Pennacchi) a son looking for the truth and resolution as to what role his uncle, Rocco Solino (John Felidi) played in his father’s death.
In the first act, scenes get cut short, leaving the audience scrambling for more information about characters, back stories, and events. Technically, the film’s locations, sound, costume, and lighting, work giving an especially good bang for the buck with this low budget project. Performances from the supporting roles mesh well, though in some scenes the dialogue felt rushed. A salient component is that Schioppo honors the audience’s intelligence by deftly avoiding expository dialogue, or derivative stereo typical gangster terms and rants.
After the first act, the story moves at a good pace, delivering an entertaining cinematic experience. After all, they are family, and as with all families, there are secrets. While watching, A Safe House, the line from The Godfather II, (Hyman Roth to Michael Corleone) resonates, “This is the business we have chosen.”
For Bill, this business was chosen for him. The audience roots for him, through an understanding of life’s unfair realities. How Bill struggles to transform his life into one where he makes choices, is his hero’s journey. Ironically, although Rocco has schooled Bill in the family code, after a run-in with the law, Rocco tries to get Bill off the hook, and shelter him from the reality of the gangster life; luck always runs out.
During initial auditions, Schioppo directed Felidi, to find the humanity in his character, Rocco, who is drowning in a world of brutality and addiction. This sprinkling of humanity throughout the film further engages the audience’s trust in the story’s authenticity.
Aspiring first time filmmakers and film school students especially need to check out this movie. Schioppo, as self made filmmaker and two time award winner, (2010 Hoboken Film Festival, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, & 2010, Silk City Film Festival, Best Feature Film) delivers a fresh family crime drama. In doing so, he has set a bar which undoubtedly will move higher with his next production.
– L.C. Cragg