Independent cinema has a lot in common with the music world, especially when it’s not beholden to executives. Just some artists and their instruments, hoping they make something others will want to share with them. Sometimes, it fails and falls into obscurity. Sometimes, it becomes a crossover smash. Usually, it’s something in between, having a small but potentially devoted following. In the case of Wrong Reasons, the film seems destined for that outcome. That’s not a dig, either, as the movie is small and a bit unusual, but has a vibe that some will gravitate towards. Count me among that group, too, as I liked this far more than I didn’t. Its imperfections are there, but the voice and central performances keep you on steady ground.
Wrong Reasons is clearly a COVID production, given when it was shot and the small amounts of people in any given scene, but what it lacks in budget and scale, it makes up for with ambition. Now, not all of it works, but the combination of an abduction tale, media satire, and police procedural jives more than you’d expect it too. It’s a bit messy, but so is punk rock, which is a clear influence here. As an indie with a somewhat different outlook to share, it’s worth a recommendation.
Kat Oden (Liv Rousch) and her boyfriend Nick Boon (John Enick) are rockstars. Nick is the more famous one, while Kat is something of an underground star, favoring the punk rock scene. They’re also junkies. One night, while strung out on the couch, Kat is abducted. Assigned to the case is Detective Charles Dobson (Ralph Garman), a former actor. Something of a mediocre detective, he’s caught by surprise when a social media post by Nick leads to the press taking on the case. In short order, a media circus begins.
Taken to the backwoods of California, Kat quickly realizes that her kidnapper James (James Parks), is fairly gentle and potentially even in over his head. Slowly but surely, she begins bonding with him, while trying to figure out why he abducted her. While that bit of potential Stockholm Syndrome is kicking in, Dobson and television anchor Julie Martin (Teresa Ruiz) begin thinking of ways that this case could help them both. As the media circus grows larger, Dobson makes plans to crack the case, while having designs on crossing over to that side of the fence. With everyone having motivations opposite to what they should, eventually something will have to give.
Ralph Garman gets his biggest showcase to date here. A longtime character actor and voice performer, Garman is a believably gruff cop more than happy to look for a way to greener pastures. Playing it straight, he’s intense without ever going over the top. Given his prior work (as well as well-regarded podcasting/radio career), it’s a new sort of role, one he plays with aplomb. Hopefully more filmmakers see it and take a chance on him. The same goes for Liv Roush, who has to play a broad spectrum of emotions. Occasionally she’s asked to do too much, but in some of the quieter yet more emotional scenes, she lays herself bare. Rousch has a screen presence that keeps you watching. James Parks is very low-key, which subverts your normal kidnapper type of role. His part is the thinnest of the central trio, but he makes you care about the character more than you’re expecting to. In addition to John Enick and Teresa Ruiz, who are fine but somewhat forgettable supporting players include David Koechner, Daniel Roebuck, Kevin Smith, and more.
Filmmaker Josh Roush is close to a one man band, writing, directing, and editing, as well as being the co-cinematographer. It’s certainly a punk rock mentality, which fits the production. There’s shaky elements to all of it, but also a clear sense of confidence in his work. That goes a long way, keeping this from ever feeling like something closer to a student film. At the bare minimum, this will leave you very curious to see what he does next. Roush certainly has more stories to tell, so those movies will have my interest.
Wrong Reasons is pretty rough around the edges, but it doesn’t lack for personality. I’ll always give more credit to something like this, with no budget and a can do attitude, than a studio flick that plays it safe and dances with mediocrity. If nothing else, this is a nice calling card that will bode well for Roush’s filmmaking future.