Our Pledge To You

News

‘Bad Hurt’: A gritty look at the walking wounded

Most of us know at least one family like the Kendalls.

Sometimes it’s OUR family that’s like the Kendalls.

You know: the family where just about everyone is seriously messed up — except for the one or two relatively normal individuals who are forever putting their own lives on hold just so they can hold things together for one more day.

In the authentic and gritty if occasionally overwrought “Bad Hurt,” director Mark Kemble does a stellar job of adapting his searing play about a tumultuous family, with the setting moving from New England to Staten Island — perhaps the most forgotten and least-filmed borough in New York City.

It’s Christmastime, 1999. Plastic Josephs and Marys jut out from the small hills of snow blanketing the front lawns of the tidy homes in the borough.

Theo Rossi (Juice from “Sons of Anarchy”) gives a natural and quietly strong performance  as Todd Kendall, a city bus driver with dreams of becoming a cop. (He’s a reserve police officer, hoping to one day ace the entrance exam to the academy.) Todd’s a solid, steady guy who wouldn’t mind catching a break, just a simple regular break, once in a great while.

Todd’s older brother Kent (Johnny Whitworth) is a former standout baseball player who served in the Gulf War and emerged with severe PTSD. His father Ed (the familiar character actor Michael Harney of “Orange Is the New Black”) is a Vietnam veteran who focuses on small projects around the house as a way of tuning out the emotional explosions around him and the demons within. Todd’s sister DeeDee (Iris Gilad) is mentally handicapped and is falling in love with Willy (Calvin Dutton), a special needs person who is getting increasingly physical with DeeDee.

The wonderful Karen Allen is Todd’s mother Elaine, who is deeply loving but also exhausted, physically and emotionally. Elaine has no time for nonsense. When people refer to Dee Dee as “mentally challenged,” Elain says, “She’s retarded. When she was born that’s what we called it, and I’ll stick with that.”

Although “Bad Hurt” traffics in tough material, it is filled with little moments of heart, as when a young woman comes into a bar and asks for an application, and the bar owner says he has no available jobs but her glass of wine is on the house, and he promises to contact her if he hears of any openings. There’s a lovely scene where Elaine patiently explains to Willy she’s going to let him spend more time with DeeDee — but he has to always respect her special needs.

A third-act revelation explodes out of nowhere and feels like one gut-punch too many. Still, “Bad Hurt” resonates as a raw and powerful drama about the walking wounded, who still manage to find kindness and love within even as they’re spending most days under pitch-black clouds.

[s3r star=3.5/4]

Screen Media Films presents a film directed by Mark Kemble and written by Kemble and Jamieson Stern. Running time: 100 minutes. No MPAA rating. Now showing at Randall 15 in Batavia.