Stray Bullets

A 16-year-old director makes a pretty great crime film.

Kids these days, amirite? One of today’s kids who seems all right is Jack Fessenden, whose first feature film Stray Bullets is far better than a feature film written, produced, and directed by a 16-year-old has any right to be. Granted, he’s the son of legendary Z-movie director Larry Fessenden — who also co-produced and served as the cinematographer — so he had a leg up that most teenagers (and adults) lack. But the final product is a tight little genre picture by any standard.

Connor (director Fessenden) and his paintball-loving buddy Ash (Asa Spurlock) are teenagers who get tangled up with on-the-run criminals Cody (James Le Gros), Dutch (John Speredakos), and the wounded Charlie (the elder Fessenden), unaware that Ash’s father (Robert Burke Warren) is an old partner of theirs. Stray Bullets makes no attempt to reinvent the crime-film wheel, and two decades ago, it might have been dismissed as a Tarantino clone (especially the early scenes as Charlie bleeds out in the backseat of a car).

But the young Fessender has his own voice, and develops a strong enough sense of place and tone that even the many walking scenes don’t feel like padding. This youngster might well make some terrific movies once he’s old enough to vote.

Stray Bullets
Not rated. Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theatre.

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