Down to earth: Independent film takes raw, brutally honest look at working class lifestyle
When personal tragedy and financial ruin collide, everyone has a breaking point.
In “Blue Collar Boys,” director, writer and producer Mark Nistico explores what happens when everyday, hardworking Americans are pushed to the edge. The film takes a gritty, unapologetic look at a family contracting business that is struggling to survive and the decisions they make to avoid losing everything.
The low-budget, independent film has been racking up awards, winning Best Micro-Budget Feature Film at the Toronto Independent Film Festival, along with Best Screenplay at the Hoboken International Film Festival. The film’s world theatrical premiere is at 7 p.m. Friday at the Palace Theater in Syracuse, N.Y.
Shot on location in New Jersey, the film has an authentically bleak feel. The family diners, local bars and construction sites seem familiar, and the characters and their burdens hit home — they break their backs to put food on the table every night in a way that is relatable.
The film opens with a man being arrested, his face pressed in the dirt. The story picks up nine months earlier, as 27-year-old Charlie “Red” Redkin (Gabe Fazio) is forced to take over his family construction business from his aging father, Doug “Senior” (Bruce Kirkpatrick). When mounting project costs, late payments and corrupt developers bring the family to the brink of bankruptcy and foreclosure, Red reluctantly turns to threats, violence and petty crime.
Red is in over his head, his actions guided by anger and frustration. Along with his hotheaded half-brother Nick “Nazo” (Kevin Interdonato) and friends Mason (Joshua Paled) and Slim (Russ Russo), he slowly sinks deeper into a mafia mentality, justifying his means to protect his family.
At the heart of “Blue Collar Boys” is a character study — it takes the conventional mold of blue-collar workers and turns it on its head. The group constantly engages in bar fights, and the boys rely on homophobic and racial slurs. But the story fleshes out why they act the way they do. Behind Nazo’s obnoxious attitude and Red’s brooding anger is a deep-seated disillusionment with the American dream.
The film captures the devastating ripple effects of economic hardship with unflinching realism, a bold script and several intensely emotional performances from its young lead actors.
The acting brings these themes to life, with relative newcomer Gabe Fazio giving a heart-wrenching performance as Red. Fazio wears his emotions on his sleeve, his quiet presence erupting into anger and rage glaring in his eyes as he chokes a developer through a drywall. As Red hunches over, weeping in an empty, unfinished house, he epitomizes a man completely broken.
Interdonato and Paled play Nazo and Mason, respectively, adding depth to the gruff workingman stereotype. These are the guys people avoid in bars, the ones always looking for an excuse to pick a fight. But behind their facades is fear. Fear of losing what they have and of letting their families down. Their performances reveal the underlying mentality of the so-called “common man with calloused hands.”
Nistico’s script is straightforward and blunt, but with a certain poetic subtlety, in a similar vein to HBO’s “The Wire.” The dialogue is brash and profane, with characters constantly cursing and yelling at one another. Yet scattered throughout the film are lines that dig much deeper. For example, at one point, Slim said, “It’s hunger, it’s strife and it’s necessity. That’s how gangs are formed. It’s hate. The hate runs deep.”
Political undertones course throughout the film. During a monologue, Red said, “Blood runs deep? That’s some bulls*** they sell kids on the street. It’s hate that runs deep. The generations that carried this nation on their backs have been driven from their homes and left for dead. The American dream lies in the sewer.”
These guys are easily provoked, they drink and they brawl. In one scene, they even bash and kick a car to pieces. But when “Blue Collar Boys” comes full circle, as Red is handcuffed and his face pushed against the cold ground, it’s easy to understand why.
Contact Rob: email@example.com
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