DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

WELCOME TO PINE HILL (director/writer: Keith Miller; screenwriter: story by Keith Miller; cinematographers: Alex Mallis/Lily Henderson/Begonia Colomar; editor:  Keith Miller; music:  Michael Rosen; cast: Shannon Harper (Shannon /Abu), Keith Miller (Keith), Mary Meyers (Mother), Ernest Bastien (Friend #1); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Elisabeth Holm/Keith Miller; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2012)

"The urban angst over the city's diversity seems authentic."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Keith Miller ("The Visit") is the writer-director of this slice-of-life drama, that mixes together fiction and reality in its semi-improvised presentation. It's a follow-up to his 2010 Prince William short. The pic opens with the white director walking his dog at night in Pine Hill and encountering a burly black Pine Hill, Brooklyn neighbor, Shannon Harper, a former drug dealer gone legit as a midtown  insurance adjustor by day, bouncer by night, who claims that's his lost dog and wants it back. Shannon claims he owned the dog until it got loose two months ago and the nervous Keith tries to find a way to keep the dog, even if means shelling out $250.

The cheaply made short was the winner of the jury prize for best feature at the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival.

The story turns on Shannon receiving a life-threatening cancer report and thereby trying to square things with friends, family and his former criminal associates without telling them of his immanent death. It concludes with Shannon inexplicably hitting the hiking trails of the Catskill Mountains for the first time and it concludes with the dying cancer patient vanishing into the woods at nightfall.

The soft-spoken giant African-American is a menacing figure, as he appears easygoing but gives off possible bad guy vibes.

The dialogue is stilted and the viewing from the shaky handheld camera is annoying, but the urban angst over the city's diversity seems authentic and the intimate performance by Shannon gives the pic an edge.

REVIEWED ON 12/1/2013       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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