Meet Julian Po

Alan Wade's curious indie fable explores the dark side of Frank Capra

The filmmaker's themes are helped immensely by a series of attuned performances. Slater may be most famous right now for public drunkenness and battery, but he impressively cuts against that grain, and the rest of his smart-ass-manipulator career, by proving he can play a malleable sad sack. A trio of nuanced turns by Broadway stage stars Cherry Jones, Frankie R. Faison, and Zeljko Ivanek provide indispensable velocity in helping the director score the few bull's-eyes he can claim. Tony Award winners Jones (The Heiress) and Faison (Fences) play, respectively, a deaf-mute maid with an unrequited crush and a small-town sheriff whose familiarity with homicide extends beyond the role of investigator. They render these little people in big, but never broad, strokes of color.

Julian Po never quite graduates from indie curiosity, thanks to the director's plodding devotion to his themes. At a paltry 84 minutes, it still feels repetitive and a bit unfocused. But those who choose to hang in there will find themselves provoked in ways that few films can boast.

Julian Po.
Christian Slater, Michael Parks, Frankie R. Faison, Cherry Jones. Written by Alan Wade, based on a short story by Branimir Scepanovic. Directed by Wade. Opens Friday.

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