Two Good Guys

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Two Good Guys
Film Review

Don't miss 'Two Good Guys'
MICHAEL W. FREEMAN, Herald News Staff Reporter   May 18, 2001 

Robert Manuels, Mario Durand, Lina Farias
Not Rated
* * * *

Darryl and Jay are two good guys, best buddies since childhood, now sharing a small apartment together.

They have new girlfriends, and their lives would be perfect, except they have dead-end jobs and sure don't live like kings.

Then they stumble onto a local drug kingpin, Harry Garcia, who blackmails them into becoming his runners. Too scared to back out, they don fancy clothes and start doing Harry's bidding, and quickly learn there's a lot of fast cash in the drug world. All of a sudden, their bank accounts are soaring.

So begins "Two Good Guys," the cinematic debut of director Robert Manuels, a Fall River native who put himself through film school, then spent a long, hot summer in 1999 filming this smart and gripping independent feature. Manuels is an excellent student. Using his brother Jamie as his cinematographer, they advance well beyond two guys making a home movie with shaky, unfocused hand-held cameras. Visually, their work is flawless and imaginative, and the editing is sharp enough to keep the heartfelt story flowing.

Best of all, they filmed it entirely in Fall River, allowing scenes of the Braga Bridge, Maplewood Park, and South Main Street to weave into the story. This is a movie you won't want to miss.

Manuels, 26, had the good sense to hire himself as screenwriter and lead actor as well. His character, Darryl, begins having second thoughts about dealing when he realizes he's hand-delivering drugs to school kids. He becomes desperate to back out, but Jay refuses. His huge cash flow is too tempting, particularly if the alternative is going back to being a nobody.

This cautionary tale about the allure of easy money is familiar, although the film's anti-drug message is anything but outdated in the era of "rave" parties. "Two Good Guys" also works so well because the film isn't really about the drug subculture, but about friendship.

This divide starts tearing at Darryl and Jay, as they increasingly find themselves involved in more and more dangerous -- even violent -- assignments. They begin turning on one another, and face the possibility of becoming casualties in the war on drugs. As their situation begins to look hopeless, an ominous tension hangs in the air.

Manuels and his cast -- including Mario Durand as Jay, Lina Farias as Darryl's girlfriend Missy, Edward J. Costa as Harry and, in a nice cameo, John Rodrigues as a take-charge mayor -- perform their roles in a very natural, easygoing style, blowing away the goofy, over-the-top teen performances so readily available on the WB Network these days.

This film was made on a very low budget, and doesn't look like "Lawrence Of Arabia"; but, as was the case with "The Blair Witch Project," that works in its favor, giving the film a gritty look. It reminded me of the Discovery Channel's docudrama show, "The New Detectives," which uses actors to recreate real life criminal cases. Manuels and his performers give the film a stark reality that often made "Two Good Guys" feel like a reenactment of an actual case.

You should also catch "Two Good Guys" for Manuels' skills as a director. He shows a fascination with the urban landscape, which offers his characters both punishment and rewards, and seamlessly weaves in hip hop music by Illy Sounds and a moody piano piece by Ernest Resendes, giving his picture a real pulse and tempo.

As someone who suffered through the agony of the big-budget bomb "Battlefield Earth," I can definitely say that John Travolta could benefit by hiring fresh young talent like Manuels. Watching this film is a reminder of how much fun movies can be.

�The Herald News 2001

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