A Slow Building, Thriller-less Thriller
For long stretches of The Spearhead Effect you find yourself waiting for the thrills to begin. It’s not that this Indie thriller is boring per se; the thought provocative narrative and interesting themes explored in the film are, for the most part, really well handled. For a film proclaimed to be a thriller though, there aren’t too many thrills to note. The sporadic bouts of violence and thematically strong message woven throughout do make this a smartly written Indie flick but it also lacks finesse and polish, plagued with mediocre acting and a frustrating lack of characterisation.
The story follows Jake (Rane Johnson), an internet sensation who gets big online after exposing corruption among American police. After appearing on a popular American talk show, Jake receives anonymous threats at his house and decides to stay with his friend Daniel (Leif Steinert) until the threats die down. Once there, he unwittingly winds up entangled in the shadowy underground world of criminal justice. There’s little in the way of characterisation though and aside from small bouts of Jake’s backstory, none of the characters are explored in any real detail beyond their initial thoughts on the one driving question circling the film.
Where The Spearhead Effect thrives is when it explores the ramifications and consequences of taking the law into your own hands. The final 30 minutes or so are excellent for this and manage to bring everything into perspective in a really well worked finale. Up until that point, Spearhead Effect suffers from a painfully slow pace exacerbated by frequent long shots and a distinct lack of music during some of the dialogue-heavy scenes.
Whilst the lead actors Rane and Leif do a good job with their lines, some of the supporting cast struggle to match their acting prowess. Some have a tendency to overact their lines whilst others feel wooden and awkward in their delivery. Spearhead Effect cleverly disguises some of these flaws behind masks for the vigilante group but the rest of the scenes without these characters expose these flaws.
Ultimately, The Spearhead Effect is a film with one question hanging over every scene of its run time. If police corruption is preventing justice from being carried out, should people take matters into their own hands? It’s certainly a culturally relevant message and for the most part it’s explored in an impartial and fair way. At times, the incessant need to keep this question hanging over every scene does overpower the structure of the film. Coupled with a distinct lack of characterisation and a slow, static pace for vast stretches of the film, The Spearhead Effect fails to really nail the essence of the genre its trying to depict. If you can look past some of these issues and get to the finale, this slow burn Indie thriller makes the wait worthwhile but everything building to that point is a little too pedestrian to make this anything but a missed opportunity.