I finally caught up with What Doesn't Kill You. Being filmed (as Real Men Cry) as I was putting together Big Screen Boston, it was one of the few movies made since the introduction of Massachusetts filming tax credits that had hopes of being good. I have had no interest in seeing movies shot in Greater Boston that were set elsewhere (like Pink Panther 2) or were simply generically located (like many of the lousy comedies that have come out in the past two years).
What Doesn't Kill You had more going for it. Like many of the best Boston movies, it had local involvement in its creation, since director/co-writer Brian Goodman is a local. And like many of the best American movies, period, it's in that fertile middle ground between independent movies and studio films. But the movie's distributor, the short-lived Yari, went belly-up before What Doesn't Kill You had a national release and it went on to have a very quiet DVD release.
It's hard to see this as too much of a cinematic tragedy, though, because What Doesn't Kill You is a fairly forgettable crime drama. Mark Ruffalo plays the Goodman surrogate, a Southie native who starts out as a thieving teen and soon becomes a soldier for a local crime boss (played by Goodman, in the middle of the photo above), eventually enduring a crack addiction and a stint in prison. While the movie uses South Boston locations to achieve its grim mood, its reach simply exceeds a grasp, and it seems as if much of the set-up, including the teen years opening, should have been jettisoned to beef up its latter dilemma, when the protagonist struggles to stay straight after getting out of prison. There's just not very much that's distinctive here: the locations add some, but not a whole lot, of specificity, to the action; the characters never get too interesting (Ethan Hawke is also here as a partner-in-crime and Amanda Peet as a long-suffering wife); and the storytelling lacks imagination, especially in the wake of Scorsese's The Departed. It just kind of sits there.
To order Big Screen Boston: