Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A generic crime thriller that we have seen countless times before, The Gateway tries to keep it interesting by adding in a child endangerment angle. If one has seen any other 90’s action thriller dealing with drugs on the run, this film does indeed evoke a particular feel and style. In that regard, maybe it will find an audience, but when there is such a large array of more interesting and better films at one’s fingertips, The Gateway is a tough sell.

A social worker named Parker (Shea Whigham) gets a little too invested in one of his cases. On the job, he sees it all, including traumatizing overdoses. Dahlia (Olivia Munn) is a stressed single mom working all the time to make ends meet and support her daughter Ashley (Taegen Burns). Over the course of their friendship, Parker and Dahlia have grown close, and he forms a bond with Ashley. Dahlia’s husband Mike (Zach Avery) gets out of prison, and things change for them all in a flash. Mike involves himself in the same dangerous criminal lifestyle that got him put behind bars in the first place, smuggling drugs in his daughter’s backpack. Parker makes it his personal mission to save Dahlia and Ashley from an uncertain fate.

What works best here is the action violence. In the film’s best sequence, a robbery goes awry, devolving into a bloody and tense battle, though it ends far too quickly. A later segment when Parker, Dahlia, and Ashley are on the run provides necessary tension and stakes. The character work is a bit messy—the bond between Dahlia and Parker is not entirely clear whether it is strictly platonic. His connection with Ashley however is clearly defined.

The Gateway is strictly for gritty crime thriller completionists with nothing left on their plate. While the cast is good, many of them are wasted. Bruce Dern and Taryn Manning have next to no purpose here. How do you feature Frank Grillo heavily on all advertising materials, yet not even devote a single second of an action scene on the genre vet? That should be a crime worthy of lockup!

The Gateway comes for your backpack when it debuts in limited release theaters on Friday, September 3rd.

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