Fascinating, dialogue-rich crime drama, based on a true story, centered on five disillusioned graduates who plunder and destroy in protest against the previous generation.
I had the wrong expectation of Echo Boomers. The combination of pictures and plot summary led me to expect some blend of Money Heist and The Purge, but this is a much tighter plot than either, less frantic, and extremely thought-provoking.
Lance (Patrick Schwarzenegger) graduated just a few months earlier and he’s found it impossible to find a job. His cousin Jack (Gilles Geary) seems to have had better luck, so Lance heads back home to join Jack’s venture, despite knowing nothing about it. It’s not really Jack’s, mind you: Ellis (Alex Pettyfer) is apparently the leader of a small team, and Mel (Michael Shannon) is the client. The gang of early-twentysomethings break into homes of obvious wealth, steal a shopping list of valuables, and vandalize the rest. This is their way of evening the score: they resent Generation X for its comfort and success, while they struggle with debt and lack of purpose.
On the surface, Echo Boomers is a crime drama (and apparently based on a true story), but underneath it is all about the tension and conflict that can arise from the generation gap. I had just watched V for Vendetta yesterday, another story of masked anarchic rebellion: people can rebel and express their resentment for many reasons and in many ways, and the protagonists in the film were not striking against the government, but against their richer, elder predecessors. Each of them had different reasons (money, broken childhood, debt, etc.), and the distinct characters of the gang were very sharply drawn. The story got especially interesting when their motivations clashed.
Lance was Echo Boomers’ main character, though the group of rebels/vandals that he joined had almost as much attention as protagonists. He has a very interesting character arc through the story, from innocent and scared to bold and expressive; both utterly different from the character Schwarzenegger played in the remarkable Daniel Isn’t Real. Lance is a little different from the others, in that he treats the vandalism they commit as artistic, rather than destructive or political. The one person in the group who sees this in him – indeed sees each of them clearly – is Allie Tucker (Hayley Law), Ellis’s partner; fortunately, a much wider role than the one she played in Altered Carbon, and it suits her.
Apart from Lance, Allie is the only other person whose head the audience gets to see inside: there are occasional flashes of what the characters dream of, and Allie’s ambitions are a striking contrast to those of the friends she goes drinking with. Flashing images are used to illustrate Lance’s narration too, very effectively, as you can imagine them illustrating the book that the author (Lesley Ann Warren) is interviewing him for. The production overall is insightful, with Carlos Verón’s cinematography reflecting each personality (graceful, aggressive, etc.), and laid back lounge music relaxing the audience along with the sense of freedom these guys get from their pillaging.
Although Echo Boomers is ostensibly a crime thriller, director Seth Savoy (who also wrote it, along with Kevin Bernhardt and Jason Miller) has not given us an action-packed thriller full of car chases and fight scenes. Rather, it is a wordy drama with plenty to think about: how generations feel about each other, responsibility, ownership, and the nature of friendship. The way these things develop and disintegrate forms the tension, rather than twists and turns of the plot as such. It’s a fascinating film, and I would love to know more about some of the secondary characters; what we did get to see (for example of Ellis and Mel) was very curious, and hinted at more underneath.