By Laurie Delaire
In Toronto, Jimmy, played by Michael Rowe (“Arrow”, “Vehicular Romanticide”), beats a wife batterer in front of the man’s family before repositioning the police badge on his jacket. At the same moment in St. Johns, Danny, played by Matt Wells (“The Detectives”, “Designated Survivor”), snorts the cocaine he was supposed to sell before robbing a small store and going home to his unsuspecting family.
Both men are not only linked by their impulsive and dangerous temperament. They are estranged cousins with painful childhood whose traumatic memories still haunt and affect their lives. Their fathers were cruel men who protected their families with as much violence as they destroyed it -Jimmy’s father now in prison for battering his wife.
Danny still lives in the town he grew up in while Jimmy ran away to pursue a different life, but the death of his mother pushes him to go back to St. Johns where he meets again with his uncle, played by Robert Joy (“Land of the Dead”, “The Hills Have Eyes”), who charges him to help Danny walk on the right path again. All the while, Danny realizes that his criminal activities could have disastrous consequences for his children and his wife, played by Natalie Brown (“The Strain”, “Dawn of the Dead”).
Out of the two protagonists, Danny’s story is the most gripping: the character is engaging, the stakes are high and his relationship with his family creates an interesting dynamic. On the other hand, Jimmy’s story is lacking. His scenes are slower, more internal and focusing on his loneliness (his inner turmoil well showcased by Michael Rowe), but in a film that already moves at a slow pace, this lack of rhythm makes us rapidly disengage with his side of the story. Even his confrontation with Danny, heavily built up throughout the film, ends up rather anticlimactic.
On paper, Jimmy’s story seems to be just as interesting as Danny’s, but on screen the latter is the one who shines all throughout. Jimmy’s second to last scene is however one of the most memorable of the film, and the ending overall does pack a punch.
When it comes to how the film looks, realism is undoubtedly the aim but without neglecting inventiveness or just plain esthetic. Violence is present but never gory or unnecessary. It is everywhere around the characters and we do feel its impact all throughout the film without making us turn away from the screen. This is definitely more a character study than a gorefest or plain cop drama.
Crown & Anchor is the first feature-film by Andrew Rowe (“Vehicular Romanticide”, “Sleepy Stories”), both as director and co-writer (with his brother Michael Rowe, who plays Jimmy). While the film’s main issue (its pace) seems to be a consequence of Rowe being more accustomed to short films, Crown & Anchor is still a successful entry into feature-films.