Tubi or not Tubi. A very easy question.
It’s been a while since I really took a look at Tubi, and it’s mostly because the worst you can say about a lot of Tubi’s stuff is that it’s your bog standard direct to DVD trash. The Gateway was produced by Grindstone Entertainment Group and Metalwork Pictures, and Metalwork Pictures is so proud of it that they acknowledge the film absolutely nowhere on their website. Grindstone Entertainment Group is the subdivision that Lionsgate uses when they don’t want to associate their real brand with a movie.
Shea Whigham plays Parker Jode, a social worker who is a bitter self-destructive alcoholic and drug abuser thanks to a career of seeing children traumatized and abused, not to mention problems with his own past. Olivia Munn plays Dahlia Montrose, for whom Jode is a social worker keeping tabs on her and her daughter Ashley (Taegen Burns). Taryn Manning and Keith David are here, being actors that will take any script that comes their way. It’s also hardly shocking seeing Olivia Munn in a starring role in a film whose pedigree consists of one theater in Saudi Arabia.
But life goes haywire when Mike Montrose (Zach Avery), the father/husband, gets out of prison and starts thinking about getting back into crime and roping his family along with it. Frank Grillo plays Duke Harmaday, the dumbest name I’ve ever heard in film. Bruce Dern plays Parker’s dad who put him in a foster home as a kid, and you’ve probably never seen any of the dozens of films Bruce has been in over the last sixty years outside of maybe Hang ’em High.
The Gateway has it all; a bad script, bad plot, low quality actors delivering lines like they just read the script ten seconds earlier. You can tell the director Michele Civetta specifically hired a darker skinned woman to play agent King (Shannon Adawn) because she’s just about the only one who could deliver the line “you know anything about the Mexican burritos I’ve got on ice down at the morgue right now” without making Michele look like a racist asshole. Adawn’s IMDB bio was clearly paid for by herself or her agent and was posted by a fake account. Frank Grillo responds with the line “you know, when I was a kid I always had my tacos with pig.” Most of the dialogue feels like it was written completely out of order and on the spot.
The most unintentionally hilarious part of this film is where Parker has a heart to heart with a bullied kid in a foster home, where he points out that he himself was a kid in that foster home and “it gets better.” It’s probably just because it’s a child actor, but the kid has this expression of what looks like horrific realization that he’s just been told the best he can look forward is being a single drunk miserable-ass adult and is probably contemplating just letting his bully kill him. It’s also pretty funny having the film not even attempt to pretend that Bruce Dern is playing the trumpet during an ADR band scene. A competent director wouldn’t focus the camera on his non-moving hands. We get a terrible speech about how Bruce Dern was a bad dad because he was messed up by the Vietnam war.
At least when Kevin Sorbo said that Vietnam made him racist against Mexican pool cleaners, it was intentionally funny. The film really threw me off when halfway through a conversation the audio switches to a line that was clearly recorded after the fact and dubbed in as best they could. Horribly. I don’t even think it was the same actor. My running theory is that they were looking at the footage post-shoot, realized they completely forgot to record a line setting up the plot, and then stuffed it in as best they could. The ADR’d line sets up a 24 hour time limit for one of the bad guys to deliver stolen goods to another bad guy. There’s some b-roll footage taken by a car driving past random black kids and it’s very obvious they aren’t part of the film and are extremely suspicious of the creepy pedophile-looking car slowly rolling past with an obvious camera pointed at them. A cop talks into her wrist like she’s speaking into a CIA mic and damn does it look stupid.
There’s a subplot about Parker being one of the best fighters in the city, and I swear to Christ this subplot of the cop type inexplicably being a really good fighter was in one of the prior movies I reviewed for Direct 2 Netflix. It never pays off or gets referenced after he punches a mannequin a few times in a complete non-sequitur. Parker is constantly drinking these tiny bottles of what looks like it might be Tanqueray gin like he’s a booze vampire and it’s his sustenance. It wouldn’t shock me if Shea Whigham was getting shitfaced on set with the mini bottles of booze he brought over from the hotel, and the director just decided to show him drinking on set and incorporate his drunkenness into his character to save face. They do look like hotel mini-fridge booze bottles and I’m starting to think that’s where most of the budget went.
The Gateway feels like an American urban crime drama created by someone who has never stepped foot in America, let alone the more crime-ridden urban areas. It’s yet another one of the hundreds of puddle-deep films from self-absorbed directors and screenwriters who think they’re making some deep statement about society but have neither the talent to make such a film or the introspection to see how truly shallow, stagnant, and predictable their creation is. The Gateway is boring, meanders for a full hour and a half, and says absolutely nothing of value. Its script is roughly on the same level of intelligence as that kid who constantly quoted Shakespeare in high school so people would think he was smart.