This low budget, high quality psychological crime thriller displays a back-to-basics emphasis on engaging storytelling, as opposed to the elaborate special effects hollow shell of most attention deficit disorder blockbuster moviemaking today. First time director John Cecil has crafted a tale of mainly realistically and freshly conceived flawed characters rather than human plot devices, caught up in life circumstances which they are challenged to prevail over and resist in unusual ways.
Kevin Kinney is Brian, an ex-con in deep financial debt to the mob, and in desperate need of raising cash and settling his outstanding bill with them sooner than later, or else. So Brian is easily lured against his better instincts, into a kidnapping scheme involving a young party animal heiress (Chelsea Miller), proposed by his old penitentiary chum, Ben (Jeremy Cohen), a wild card potential madman with misogyny issues.
The convoluted plot mastermind, the weakest link in this mostly compelling story, is Mr. Nobody (Teddy Alexandro-Evans) – though he oddly seems to be the character most likely to be a somebody here – an Afro-Brit, more brains than brawn dandy sorta guy. The mysterious gent mostly stays behind the scenes, except to order around the pair like low IQ pawns. He instructs them to lure the swinger socialist away from a club and sequester her in an abandoned warehouse, while he will pester her millionaire dad for the ransom. The seedy locale is over near the title’s metaphorical Hell’s Gate in Queens, described as a bend in the surrounding river once treacherous to pirates on the loose long ago.
Despite needlessly drawn out stretches of randomly mixed past, present and future time where the two bicker with the captor and each other – digressions which tends to defuse any accumulating tension – there’s a finely honed twist at the end. And which makes the wait worthwhile, despite Mr. Nobody’s lack of dramatic credibility through no fault of his own. What Hell’s Gate does confirm, is that you don’t need flashy production values and raucous violence, to concoct a provocative, gritty gangster thriller.