Beloved character actors can become a movie-lover’s idea of a perpetual underdog, somebody we root for.
So it is for me with Tobin Bell. The one and only “Jigsaw” has at last escaped the “Saw” series. But it’s a shame his first decent showcase outside of the whispering, murderous mastermind comes in a movie that doesn’t add up to much.
He’s interesting in the part and lends his “father” character gravitas. The script, however, is half-baked, and the direction lackluster.
“A Father’s Legacy” is a hostage drama, with Bell as an old loner taken prisoner by a home invading robber (writer-director and co-star Jason Mac). Over the course of several days, a bond forms between them as the curmudgeon lectures the intruder on life, responsibility, choices and destiny.
And the young guy keeps asking, “That’s a metaphor, isn’t it?” after every homily.
It’s a tad rougher than your average faith-based tale, never quite proselytizing. And the “secrets” each man relates and the problems the older one faces are Screenwriting 101 melodramatic, the sorts of predicaments and “solutions” that only appear rational to characters in movies.
When we meet him, Billy (Bell) putters around his remote lakeside home, geese-proofing his duck box, chiding the Almighty when the day’s chores are done.
“I only talk to you because Cynthia made me promise to do it every day,” he mutters. “Take me whenever you want,” he adds. He’s ready to go.
The “kid” busts in with a revolver and a bullet wound, which doesn’t rattle the geezer in the least. All the housebreaker’s “I’m in charge” and “I’ll SHOOT you” threats don’t warrant so much as a shrug.
“I don’t appreciate you bleeding on my couch.”
When Billy brushes off a visit from the sheriff’s department, and then passes up the chance to end this situation by getting the drop on Nick the robber, a trust grows between captor and captive.
“If I was gonna shoot you, I wouldn’t have wasted a fresh bandage.”
That’s when the “How’s all this working out for you, son” “legacy” questioning and instruction begins.
The characters’ respective back-stories are soap opera lite, scenes of a wife (Rebecca Robles) “praying for us” which led to our robber’s desperate act. And then there’s the mob that “wants my land.”
There is nothing, simply nothing, more valuable than lakefront property. But it isn’t scenery that the bad guys are interested in. It isn’t anything “interesting” that they’re interested in, either. Screenplay “obstacle” creating and “problem” solving may be elemental to writing movies, but it’s a tricky art.
Bell, with his heavy eyes, weathered face and world-weary whisper, makes a good hermit. Mac makes a better actor than writer director.
“Legacy” adds up to thin drama and thinner entertainment, a tale that manages little suspense and that never really touches the heart.
I guess I’ll have to keep rooting for Bell to get a role worthy of his talents, as “A Father’s Legacy” — good intentions aside — isn’t it.
MPA Rating: unrated, violence, some profanity
Cast: Tobin Bell, Jason Mac, Rebecca Robles.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Jason Mac. A Cinedigm film, streaming June 16, in theaters via Fathom Events June 17.
Running time: 1:30