Sunday, April 5, 2015

Joseph Halsey Gives a Mindblowing Performance in Steve Sage's Latest Short, Crime Fantasy "Junkie Heaven"

Genre: Crime Fantasy
Length- 18:00
Company: Steve Sage Productions
Website: Official

Doyle (Joseph Halsey) was a junkie on his last legs – an Iraq war veteran suffering from PTSD whose only escape from misery and grief was through the draining halo of heroin addiction.  With his live-in girlfriend and partner in crime Faz (Nicole Vogt-Lowell), he's been involved with all sorts of unsavory dealings, and there's been no end to his downward spiral in sight . . . until today.

You see, today, Doyle wakes up dead, and strikes a deal with Alex (Sal Rendino), an angel offering him a way out of eternal damnation for the crimes he's committed throughout his life.  All he needs to do is retrieve a mysterious knife from a heroin dealer (Chris Cardona).

Let the hunt begin . . .


“Junkie Heaven” is the latest short film coming from award winning director Steven Sage and his production company.  Written by Lee Kolinsky, this short walks a thin line between fantasy and a more traditional crime story.  It's an interesting mix, and it sets up some really ambitious storytelling.

The most effective part of the film is the first half, in which we become accustomed to the truly horrific and quite graphic life of heroin addicts.  Once Doyle discovers he's dead and Alex appears – in an impeccable suit and tie – Sage's directing and Kolinsky's writing had me squarely in their grasp.  The acting, the dialogue, and the imagery are all brilliant, some of the finest I've seen in short films since beginning this blog back in 2013.

It's when Doyle leaves the apartment and goes on his mission that the film starts to teeter.


The keeper of the knife that Doyle's supposed to steal isn't just a heroin dealer, he's part of what appears to be a crime family.  Now, maybe it's due to budgetary constraints, but Doyle literally drives over, walks in, abuses one guard, and that's that – he's in.  It's way too easy, and it strained my belief in what was going on, especially for a short film like this that is, in all other respects, gritty and realistic despite its fantastical trappings.

Then, the film jumps to a boxing match, and Doyle's appearance changes to what he must have looked like back in his army days – right down to his army fatigues.  I didn't understand the jump, and considering what the knife ends up being capable of doing, it is utterly unbelievable that the heroin dealer would have it nearby.

The reveal at the end is also a bit strained, although I liked the concluding shot of Doyle.  I don't want to spoil it for you so I won't say too much, but let's just say there's more to the deal than Doyle expects, and I loved that what happens to him at the end is metaphorical of the afterlife he winds up experiencing.

Even with the story failings and the budgetary issues, “Junkie Heaven” is still a powerful short film with a fantastic first half and a solid conclusion.  The in-between stuff might be a little bit of a letdown, but that's only because of how incredibly good that first half truly is.


Writing: 3 / 5.  Absolutely loved the first half of the film, but the plot didn't take me from Point A to Point C in an entertaining way.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Steve Sage's directing is simply astonishing.  Loved the “tick tock” shots in the opening sequence.  The fight was also well choreographed and the hits looked painful.  He pulled great performances out of his cast.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The film's pacing was perfect, and the coloring worked extremely well.  The only thing that kept me from giving this a perfect score was that when Doyle left dark areas and went to bright areas, there was some compression or something that blinded out the action.  Otherwise, a very professional show.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  The sound was done well and the score, by Taylor Bradshaw, was effective without being intrusive.
Acting: 4 / 5.  Intense and dynamic performance by Joseph Halsey rooted me in the story and made me care about what happened to him – this guy's going to win awards one day, I promise you that.  Vogt-Lowell did a good job but at times she teetered into overacting territory.  Rendino felt authentic, comforting, and threatening when he needed to be.  The remainder of the cast did OK but for the most part sounded flat.

Final Grade:  3.8 / 5.

Don't forget to check out the trailer for “Junkie Heaven" and follow Steve Sage on Facebook – the film's now touring festivals, but when it hits the Internet, I highly recommend you take a look!

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!