Crown and Anchor Movie Review: A Dark, Biting Look at Family and Abuse

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Family can lift you up, or they can drag you down.

In the case of Jimmy Downey, his family filled with abuse and crime threatened to pull him under so far he escaped leaving them far behind.

But when Jimmy's beloved mother, Rose, dies, Jimmy heads back to his hometown to face a lifetime of disillusion and disappointment that he was never able to escape no matter how much distance he set.

Crown and Anchor Movie Poster

Michael Rowe, best known by TV Fanatics as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot on Arrow, stars as Jimmy, a police officer brimming with loneliness and unreleased anger.

His escape from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Toronto didn't heal his wounds after watching his father brutalize his mother for years, nor did it ease his pain at walking away and leaving his family to their own devices even if Jimmy was trying to be a better man.

Tough Day on the Job

We're only briefly treated to a scene in Toronto and his life on the job, but suffice it to say he used his career as a way to battle his demons.

Jimmy watched his mother get abused by his father for years until he took matters into his own hands. He plays the blame game with his family for never fully supporting the needs of his mother while also feeling guilty at his own betrayal of her by leaving her behind.

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Rowe is terrific in the role, his first lead in a feature. He's comfortable with the material, as well he should be since he helped write it with his brother, Andrew Rowe, and costar, Matt Wells.

Deadshot was my favorite baddie on Arrow because of the depth Rowe infused in him, and I often wondered why he wasn't featured in more projects. It took a home-grown and personal exploration of topics like those explored in Crown and Anchor, and the result is worth the wait.

Michael Rowe in Crown and Anchor

Rowe manages to convey a lot of emotion without saying a word. There is one scene in particular when Jimmy is bubbling over with rage, but the only way to tell is by an evident tic on Rowe's cheek as he stares mutely, unable to form words.

Wells plays Danny, Jimmy's cousin who didn't escape his plagued family (or he didn't run if the rest of the family is on the money). Married with a beautiful wife and son, Danny carries on the family tradition of petty crimes.

He swathes his life in a blanket of drugs that he both uses and sells. It's the latter part that proves to get him into the most trouble, and it's Danny's dipping too far into the honey pot that ultimately threatens to drag Jimmy back into the family drama he tried so valiantly to outrun.

If this sounds rather dire, it is a brutal story of loss and regret, but it's also doused with a biting humor.

Robert Joy in Crown and Anchor

Every family has someone who uses wisecracks as biting commentary, and Uncle Doug (Robert Joy) is that guy for the Downeys. His attempts to diffuse his feelings don't always land, but they're amusing nonetheless.

Also entertaining is Ben Cotton as the man who seduced Danny to the uneasy, criminal persuasion. He's sadistic, but doles it out with a peculiar comic intensity.

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Natalie Brown (The Strain) is Jessica, Danny's wife who turns to Jimmy for help when she can no longer make inroads with her husband.

In this role, Brown channels a combination of Joana Going and Wendy Moniz-Grillo from their Kingdom roles in a good way.

Natalie Brown in Crown and Anchor

The theme of slightly skimming the surface of regularity while always slipping back into the murky waters of the bad boys women love was a prevalent theme on the Audience Network drama, and the characters of Crown and Anchor toe that same line.

Michael Rowe and Matt Wells crafted the story, and Rowe's brother wrote the script and directed the film.

The brothers are from St. John's, and Michael spent about 10 years as a drummer for the metal/punk band Bucket Truck. And you're wondering why that latter bit matters.

Crown and Anchor does something that always makes stories more believable -- it infuses genre music that speaks directly to the character and who he is without overpowering the movie.

Matt Wells in Crown and Anchor

When Jimmy listens to music or someone turns on the radio, it becomes a part of the film. Otherwise, the characters move through life without a smothering beat that we rarely experience in real life.

The bands, including Youth of Today, Side by Side, and Gorilla Biscuits are straight-edged punk bands, a movement that signifies hard rock and roll, but a clean life free of drugs and alcohol.

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Thusly, hardcore music defines the character of Jimmy, who leads a life that he hopes is the polar opposite of his cousin. 

Despite the film's selling point as a crime drama, it's Jimmy's journey back home dealing with his abused mother's death and regretfully immersing himself into his family again that is truly compelling.

Ben Cotton in Crown and Anchor

Crime was at the core of his youth, and his cousin is still trying to swat it away like a fly on the back of his neck, but it's only a part of the story.

The difficulties of stepping out of the shadow of your youth are the same for anyone, if the consequences may be deeper for Jimmy.

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It's a commendable directorial debut for Andrew Rowe who allows the camera and his actors' presence to do a lot of the work. It could have easily been overdone, but his deft writing and directing did a powerful story justice.

Crown and Anchor is on DVD and Digital today, July 2 from Uncork’d Entertainment.


Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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