Thriller serves as one heckuva calling card for first-time feature filmmaker Emmanuelle Pickett.
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I didn’t know what I was getting into with “All Souls” (in select theaters and available on VOD beginning Friday, Dec. 8), but I’m happy to announce the flick was a pleasant surprise and is one heckuva calling card for first-time feature filmmaker Emmanuelle Pickett.
Mikey Madison (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Scream” (2022)) stars as River, a 21-year-old single mother of five-year-old Jade (talented newcomer Mia Love Disnard) and community college student. River makes ends meet by slinging drugs to her classmates.
This trade gets River in a good deal of trouble when she’s pinched by cops Carcillo (Samuel Roukin, he voiced Simon ‘Ghost’ Riley in the last two “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” video games) and Hernandez (Zach Villa, he played Richard Ramirez on “American Horror Story: 1984”). The officers are looking to use River in order to bust Silas (rapper G-Eazy credited as Gerald Gillum), a drug kingpin with whom River has history.
“All Souls” as directed by Pickett and scripted by Anthony Ragnone II is a lean (it’s a mere 81 minutes) and mean dramatic thriller. It’s a sparse, stripped-down story which largely takes place over the course of one night. Action often equals character, but Madison and Gillum’s performances are good enough that they give their roles further shading. (Madison makes for an entirely sympathetic antihero/heroine and this amplifies the tension at every turn, but it’s Gillum who’s the big surprise. His Silas is an interesting cross between charming and threatening and he sells both sides of the character convincingly.)
“All Souls” is a message movie (Pickett and Ragnone seem to be decrying the way in which vulnerable criminal informants are often exploited and seen as expendable by their police handlers), but in the most cursory sense. This is a thriller first and foremost and it’s a muscular one at that. There’s a foot chase depicting River’s escape from Silas’ lair that called to mind a similar sequence in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break.” Big ups to cinematographer Sean Bagley (he lensed “He Went That Way” from earlier this year) and editors Nicholas Gallucci, Jacqueline Kramer and Chris Willett for aiding in making these scenes as visceral as they were.
I’m not saying Pickett will have a career as successful as Bigelow’s, but if she continues building upon the promise shown in “All Souls” it’s entirely possible. Whatever Pickett has up her sleeve as a next project you can color me curious to check it out.