Frank The Bastard? Try again. Maybe a more apt title would be Frank The Underwhelming? Frank The Undercooked? Frank The Utterly Lifeless Cinematic Endeavor?
The actual title of Brad Coley’s weightless drifter story suggests a rural nightmare akin to something more sinister. I’m not saying such a title suggests Jeepers Creepers material, but as far as bastards go, Frank is no Yellow Bastard (Sin City). Hell – he’s not even Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. Frank is a fraudulent foe in the face of Coley’s familial fiasco (holy eff), and the whole thing comes together like a mysterious fable told by your absent-minded granny. This one’s more like a bedtime story, lulling viewers to sleep with a particularly uninteresting “mystery.”
It all starts when a divorced city girl named Clair (Rachel Miner) heads home to Edgeport, Maine, determined to uncover the truth about her mother’s unfortunate death. Accompanied by her gal-pal Isolda (Shamika Cotton), the two are welcomed by most locals, but shunned by a small group. As Clair begins to dig around the town’s murky past, she gains the attention of Cyrus Gast (William Sadler) and his clan of miscreant boys. The Gast family owns most of Edgeport, and Clair’s presence threatens to uncover the shady dealings that Cyrus’ business methods rely on. It’s pretty simple – there’s a nosey new girl in town and the baddies want her gone so they can continue with their unsavory ways of living. Will Clair buckle under their strong-arming? Or will she learn of her mother’s true fate.
A majority of Frank The Bastard feels like a dull relic, which is only the beginning of Coley’s scripting problems. Every conflict is effortlessly underplayed, be it a simple showing of aggression or raging fire, and characters never embrace the thrilling nature of Clair’s investigation. The town itself has an extremely dead atmosphere about it (like most of Maine), and the Gast’s lame economic domination never provides a proper antagonistic force for Clair and her photographer friend. Frank The Bastard chugs along like an aimless wanderer down a desolate, dusty trail, and that dreary mentality never quite loosens its commanding grip on the viewer.
Even with actors like William Sadler and Chris Sarandon, tonal problems and creeping boredom just can’t be shaken as time marches on. Neither performer finds much success with their roles – Sarandon as an aged hippie renegade and Cyrus as a pussycat-like menace. These are the veteran names we turn to for relief, but their small-town mentalities translate into emotionless scenes and wasted potential. Matthew Maher is the only supporting cast member who finds a gutsier performance as a mean-spirited yokel, but even with his crazed gaze, tension is lost on strange insults that involve J-Lo and criminal stupidity. The bad guys are “meh,” the good guys are “meh” – everyone is just all different shades of “meh.”
Then there’s Ms. Rachel Miner as the curious, pushy, and oblivious Clair. Without any memory of her early years, she learns many unnerving secrets about her mother and father’s past, tying her deeper into Edgeport’s roots than she’d ever imagined. But Miner is no saving grace on the screen, and her interactions with the titular Frank (played by Andy Comeau) never bring the title’s suggestive nature to light. He’s a strange drifter who always appears in the vicinity of Clair, yet she keeps giving him chances without question. All while she’s pissing off the locals and getting her friend in hot water. And for what? A dim, obvious ending that – yet again – lacks a heavyweight punch?
Frank The Bastard is a thriller that’s been sapped of all its energy. It’s more monotonous than a year’s worth of farm labor, and less exciting than a lifetime without electricity. Coley’s attempt to recreate local charm turns into an empty setting filled with weightless stereotypes so forgettable, not even an acid-laced BBQ can lighten up the mood. Frank The Bastard certainly isn’t made with bad intentions, but it’s a tiresome second feature in Brad Coley’s small catalog. Sometimes being lifelessly “forgettable” is an even worse fate than going out swinging for the fences, but not a single risk is taken here. Hell – what’s a thriller without the “thrill?”
Don't let its title fool you - Frank The Bastard is a dull, sluggish watch that's as exciting as visiting Maine is in real life.