The story of one of the FBI’s most wanted is revealed in this great biopic from Matthew Gentile.
On November 29, 2004, Jason Derek Brown had killed an armored guard and stolen his truck when he was down and out. This led him to become of the FBI’s most wanted. In charge of the investigation is Special Agent Lance Leising. Upon his investigation, he meets single mother Melanie, who was an acquittance of Brown’s. She explains that to Lance that Jason was a smooth talker who had helped her and befriended her son. The two had an intimate relationship, but would result in Jason leaving because he was only after her for her money.
Jason was a con artist who attempted to gain access to money no matter what. He owed loan sharks plenty of money and after racking up plenty of debt, he attempted to turn to his mother, who refuses to give him any more money. However, his brother David, did all that he can to help his brother out. On the November 29, 2004, that all changed forever. With no one to turn to, Jason has become one of the FBI’s most wanted. Will Leising be able to get enough to capture Brown or will the charismatic con man turned murderer escape?
Biopics based on true crimes are quite interesting to watch as they blend fact with fiction or in terms of the latter, a stretch of real facts. Matthew Gentile makes a very good feature film debut with this biopic of Jason Derek Brown, who in 2004 was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for the death of an armored guard and theft of money. Before his career in filmmaking, Gentile actually wanted to be an FBI agent, having been inspired by many crime shows. Gentile did his research and came up with quite a film about a mysterious enigma who conned and then murdered his way to luxury.
Tom Pelphrey gives off an excellent performance as Brown. Mainly seen in flashbacks, we see Brown on all sides of the spectrum. We see him as a charismatic talker who is looking for a quick buck. We see him at his best when it comes to his relationship with Melanie, played by Idina Menzel. We also see him at nights in the gentleman’s clubs when he’s at a low point. We see him at his worst when it comes to his losing money and forced to face loan sharks and then resorting to being down and out. There is a very emotional performance when we see Brown’s attempt to coerce her mother out of some money that brings out the best in both Pelphrey and Jacki Weaver, who plays his mother.
Ryan Phillippe has definitely come a long way from his Cruel Intentions days as he gives off a great performance as Lance Leising, the FBI agent in charge of tracking down Brown in hopes of capturing him. Philippe gives off a no-nonsense vibe to the role as he means business. Shantel VanSanten is great as Jamie Brown, the sister who is willing to go through any great lengths to protect her brother even when she knows he had done wrong while Paul Schneider plays brother David, who wants to help Jason out of his jam until he learns of the horrific thing he did which leads to a conflict in the moral compass.
American Murderer is quite a fascinating look at someone in the FBI’s Most Wanted, with Tom Pelphrey churning out a powerful performance and Ryan Phillippe in another great recent performance as the agent in charge of capturing him. A great feature film directorial debut for Matthew Gentile.
WFG RATING: A-
Saban Films presents a Traveling Picture Show Company production in association with Gigi Films and Productivity Media. Director: Matthew Gentile. Producers: kara Baker, Carissa Buffel, Mevin Matusow, and Gia Walsh. Writer: Matthew Gentile. Cinematography: Kalilah Robinson. Editing: Matt Allen and Christopher Young.
Cast: Tom Pelphrey, Ryan Phillippe, Idina Menzel, Paul Schneider, Shantel VanSanten, Jacki Weaver, Kevin Corrigan.