If you watch the trailer for Booster, you might think this is just another crime drama set in Boston. Director and writer Matt Ruskin made a film in his hometown of Boston with friends, and it does not go in the direction that the audience might expect.
Simon is a guy that steals (boosts) for a living. He steals random things from stores and turns around and gives the goods to his friend, Paul, to make a profit. He does sell the pilfered goods to other clientele as well. His drug-addicted brother, Sean, holds up a laundromat and is eventually caught for the crime. He is sent to prison. The only way to get his brother off for the robbery is to perform a string of other laundromat holdups to provide reasonable doubt that Sean did not do it. One thing that is important to Simon is family. His mother died when he was young, and his grandmother raised him. His brother is the only one left. Simon contemplates the proposed crimes and starts preparing to go through with the plan.
The one central theme that is constant throughout the film is family. Family is very important to Simon. It is the one thing that he holds sacred. He constantly visits his grandmother in her nursing home, almost on a daily basis. He does not hold a real job, so he supports himself and his grandmother by boosting. Family is so important to him that when he is told what he needs to do to get his brother off, he is hesitant but knows what he has to do. In addition to this robbery his brother committed, he also owes money to some local thug. Simon starts raising funds for that debt as well. However, within Simon is morality. Yes, he steals for a living, but holding up a store and possibly hurting people is not part of who he is. He struggles with what he needs to do to help his brother.
The first thing that drew me to see Booster at South by Southwest is that it employed non-actors for two of the main roles. While we may all think we could act, it is entirely different thing to have to memorize lines, work with other trained actors, and be on a hot set. Nico Stone plays the focus of the film, Simon, and is Nico’s first acting job. Another non-actor is Adam DuPaul who plays Paul, the more seasoned booster and good friend to Simon. Both Adam and Nico are childhood friends of director/writer Matt Ruskin. Both men performed great for the camera, so much so that if you did not know their acting background, you would think they both had acting experience prior to Booster. Nico Stone hold up very well against veteran actor Seymour Cassel, who plays an older gentleman that Simon befriends at the nursing home.
Booster is a hometown film. The cast and crew know Boston. The locations, the accents, and the feel of the film are all authentic. It does not have the pace or the action of a crime drama, since the crime is not the focus. Simon’s character is developed over time and gives you enough background on him. You know he is struggling with the decision of whether to carry out these crimes that he has been asked to do.
Matt Ruskin and the cast of Booster made a great film that will draw in those viewers who like the crime drama genre. What they will get is a different and more genuine take on the genre, and the ending will surprise them. This is a film that took some chances with the story and its actors, but it came out on the other end with an original take on the subject that will keep viewers guessing how much Simon will do for his family.
I give Booster 4 “ Saddam Hussein masks” out of 5.