Matt Ruskin’s Booster Shrinks Boston down to the Size of its Pint-sized Protag
The Boston crime drama is tried and true. The storefronts, the accents, the attitudes all drip with the good guy/bad guy dichotomy, honor and valor laced with corruption and deceit. Often, as seen in recent years with The Departed and The Town, the stories sweep across the city; crimes of epic proportions only matched by the hard-nosed cops (with gooey innards, of course) who bring them down. In Booster, Matt Ruskin shrinks Boston down to the size of a department store, a Laundromat or its pint-sized protagonist Simon (Nico Stone) who is faced with choosing his brother or himself—and the clock it ticking.
Simon takes care of everybody. He pays the hospital bills for his grandmother by stealing from local spots and then selling the loot to his hulking, nice-guy friend Paul (Adam DuPaul), visits an old man (Seymour Cassel) in an old folks’ home seemingly just because and is constantly bailing out his older brother for any of his many wrongdoings. Eventually, his brother gets sloppy and is arrested for holding up a Laundromat. The only way of clearing his brother’s name is to commit similar crimes while he’s locked away to infer that it was someone else all along. Simon is a petty thief but more in the Robin Hood tradition than a hardened criminal—when he picks up a gun it is clear he is trying to convince everyone, including himself, that he is cocksure and comfortable.
And there’s the girl, Megan (Kristin Dougherty). She has problems of her own and is trying to leave Boston and wants Simon to come with her. With his past sitting atop his shoulders, Simon is looking forward but is held back, weighed down, by his family ties.
Simon’s other key relationship, that with Harold, feels true, but it is not clear how it plays into the story. Harold is a lonely, ailing drunk who spends his days alone, waiting for Simon to come to his old age home and sneak him some whiskey. Their relationship is an easy one, outside of their own lives and so without conflict or drama. At one point, Simon brings Harold to see his family but they are unwelcoming, will not even let him in the door; the damage done, the old man now on his own. Perhaps Ruskin is using this storyline as a warning to Simon, to show what happens when you turn on your family.
The exposition can at times be delivered in a clunky, telegraphed manner; the cute-meet between Simon and Megan is also somewhat contrived. Still, Megan and Simon’s time together offer a necessary reprieve to Simon’s familial obligations and further complicate his ability to make the right decision. The pressure mounts, everyone is looking at Simon to make a decision. He tries to convince himself that he can be that guy, the one who can step up when it’s needed. All eyes are on him. Now all he has to do is act.
Booster‘s visual flair greatly accentuates its storyline. The club scenes pulsate with dirt and grime, the scenes at home with a dull, northern light creeping through the windows. DP Tim Gillis and Ruskin do a nice job of capturing Boston’s grit but not overstating its case. In one scene, Ruskin (also the film’s editor) cuts out of a scene to a travelling shot minutes after magic hour, the sky a furious pink. It’s a wonderful touch, anchoring the scene in Simon’s head, always swimming, going in every direction, in many places at once.
Reviewed at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival – Narrative Competition