The Gateway

September 3rd, 2021




I think the point of The Gateway is misery. There’s a nasty streak, a darkness in Michele Civetta’s film that makes it impossible to come away from it with anything but disgust. Shea Wigham stars as Parker, a social worker in St. Louis, a man that tries to go above and beyond his duty of looking after families. His particular focus is on Dahlia (Olivia Munn) and her daughter, with mom working all day to keep the lights on, Parker is there with a helping hand for a tough situation. And then father Mike (Zach Avery) is released from prison, and now Parker becomes involved in trying to protect Dahlia from his drug dealings and anger issues. The gist is that The Gateway attempts to show the never ending cycle of broken homes, but does it in such a redundant, miserably bleak way that there’s nothing to appreciate. It’s just a bad movie from start to finish.

Our introduction to Parker is where he’s walking into a home to find a passed out man in a chair and a woman dead on her bed from an overdose. The child has been left sitting at the kitchen table, alone, with no clue his mother is dead, and now he must call in child services to have him transferred to an orphanage. A scene that follows is Parker’s radio being stolen out of his car, late night bumps of cocaine at the bar, and a drive past the house of his father (Bruce Dern), someone who left him when he was a boy. The plot picks up a bit when Mike is released from prison, he soon goes home to torment his wife, and eventually connects with a middle man for drug cartels- played by Frank Grillo in an incredibly pointless role. The narrative goes from Parker’s struggles to stay alive while dealing with scum, a botched drug heist, abusive moments of Dahlia thrown to the ground, and leading to a climactic standoff between Parker and Mike, and his goons. None of it has a message or a purpose to exist.

The collective cast in The Gateway is not bad, in fact with Wigham in the lead, we see a layered actor who understands how to create a character from the inside out. The problem is that co-writers Alex Felix Bendana, Andrew Levitas, and Civetta mistake gritty ugliness for deep inspiring plotlines. I’m reminded of how Lorelei was a similar story, of broken people, getting second chances, or trying to fight the pressures that surround them. That’s a film that had none of the action and is ten times better because it makes us care about the characters. The people we follow in The Gateway are trashy, living in a cold world that has zero redemption for them, and never establishing a moment where we would want to care. Periodically the story will show brief flashbacks of Parker’s childhood or an image of a case he worked on, both failing to establish what apparently is The Gateway’s major themes- which is orphaned children.

There’s even a closing statistical coda about “how many children become orphans every year”, which may as well have been a stat for anything. It could have said “100,000 kids consume kool-aid in the summer” or “1 in 5 orphans say becoming an orphan sucks, man” and it all would be pointless drivel for Civetta to attempt to elevate the theatrics of this story. I would have preferred if The Gateway took a similar approach as the film Crisis did with the opioid epidemic. That movie is equally bad, but at least it has something to say, with a narrative that goes along with it’s statement.

Part of me felt I was being too harsh on The Gateway by giving it a half star, but it’s also incredibly boring, especially for a movie with a climactic shootout. This movie is ultimately hard to get through. Nothing to care about, tepid dialogue that copies too many Scorsese movies, good actors delivering stiff lines, and incredible continuity issues on top of it all. Yes, The Gateway is deserving of a half star. Come to think of it, that was me being pretty nice.



Written by: Leo Brady

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