Saturday, April 2

Emery's 2022 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Friday, April 1st

Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2022 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.



By Emery Snyder - @leeroy711

THE RETALIATORS – Directed by Samuel Gonzalez Jr. & Bridget Smith



Following the vicious murder of his daughter, a pastor dives into the seedy underworld of biker gangs, drug trafficking and the man inflicting justice on the worst of them.

I wonder how much of my response to this film was colored by the fact that I’ve recently been rewatching the original seasons of Showtime’s Dexter. It shared a lot of the same vibes. First, with just how ridiculous the world in which both properties take place. In Dexter, Miami is a medium sized city, just lousy with serial killers. In this film, we see a depiction of an underground drug world populated entirely by groove metal band members and their merch girls… I’m not exaggerating, multiple members of the band, Five Finger Death Punch play prominent roles.

To be clear, I’m almost always completely okay with these types of absurdities, I mean, I’m all the way up to season 5 of Dexter already. But I’d appreciate it if the filmmakers could have a little fun with it. This film had all of the physical elements of a romp of a good time. But it was constantly weighed down by an overwhelming air of self-importance. I could really never pin down exactly what the filmmakers were going for.


DOWN WITH THE KING – Directed by Diego Ongaro


Rapper, Mercury Maxwell (Freddie Gibbs) is holed up in a cabin in a small farming community attempting to write his next album. Increasingly becoming disillusioned with the music industry, he connects with the community as he contemplates his next move.  

The worst thing I can say about this film is that it could have used about a fifteen-minute trim for pacing. But honestly, that may have more to do with the fact that I watched it at a festival than with the film itself.

Freddie Gibbs is perfect in this role. I don’t know if that will translate into future work for him, but this story was the perfect setup for a very believable performance on his part. The other great parts went to Bob Tarasuk’s Bob and Jamie Neumann’s Michaele.

The film delves into plenty of intriguing and captivating subject matter. At times, it is heavily commenting on how the capitalization and commodification of the creative process is ultimately harmful to those who work in it. But to the film’s credit, it stays focused on the far more personal angles of the story. It never feels preachy, just an organic and naturally flowing progression.

The rural setting of this film lends way to some beautifully candid moments as well. A lot of what was captured was Mercury’s interactions with the nature of his surroundings. This may have ultimately worked against the film’s pacing. I can imagine it being difficult to decide what moments to leave on the cutting room floor. But again, my issues with the film’s length may have only been a function of the setting in which I saw it.

I hope this film gets the release it deserves. Hip-Hop heads will like it just as much as the cinefiles.


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