LIMBO movie poster | ©2020 Uncork’d Entertainment

LIMBO movie poster | ©2020 Uncork’d Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Lucian Charles Collier, Scottie Thompson, Lew Temple, Richard Riehle, Peter Jacobson, Lauryn Canny, Veronica Cartwright, James Purefoy
Writer: Mark Young
Director: Mark Young
Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Release Date: August 4, 2020

LIMBO takes place in the realm indicated by the title. Neither Heaven nor Hell, here Limbo is a dusty room that looks like an unused ‘30s warehouse office. The souls of the departed come here to be judged and sent to their ultimate destination.’’

The soul that occupies this version of Limbo is that of Jimmy Doyle (Lew Temple), who died as the result of a shootout in an armed robbery. Since Jimmy shot and killed the shop owner (Veronica Cartwright) and wounded her assistant, and he’s unrepentant to boot, he wouldn’t seem the most likely candidate for redemption. Even so, the angel Cassiel (Scottie Thompson), from the Department of Clemency and Exculpation, shows up to defend him. Prosecuting the case is fallen angel Balthazar (Lucian Charles Collier), from the Hellish Department of Perspicacity. Balthazar views humans as monkeys, and can’t understand why Heaven has bothered to send a lawyer for any of them, least of all Jimmy.

LIMBO is a riff on the oft-dramatized story THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER by Stephen Vincent Benet, originally published in 1936. The premise is durable, with high stakes and the ability to vary angels, demons, et al as much as imagination and budget permit. Here, we get demons with horns that come off as kind of cute. Balthazar and Cassiel, as angels, don’t have them, but stenographer Phil (Richard Riehle, endearing in his sweetness) does.

We can applaud writer/director Mark Young’s casting smarts and ability to confine the action to relatively few settings. LIMBO moves around West Hollywood ever so slightly while flashing back to Jimmy’s Earthly existence. Still, so much of the movie takes place in the office, and is so dependent on dialogue, that LIMBO feels like it may have begun life as a stage play.

There’s something that doesn’t quite work with LIMBO. In order for the final twist to work, there has to be earlier misdirection. This, however, winds up making it impossible for us to see what motivates a crucial change for one character. It’s hard to talk about some of the things that feel like misfires without giving the game away. It feels like the filmmakers are trying to be daring, without awareness of recent developments in fantasies about angels and demons, and both real life and storytelling when it comes to social dynamics and criminal justice. (There are also a couple of homophobic throwaway lines that should have been literally thrown away.)

Temple is a standout as the beleaguered, battered Jimmy. Thompson has a nice blend of innocence and exasperation as the Heavenly visitor. Collier is good as the fed-up prosecutor, though it would have been better to simply let him use his real English speaking voice than have him wrangle an American accent. Cartwright is enjoyable as the understandably infuriated shooting victim.

Except for the occasional strong language, LIMBO feels like something that might have turned up on the TV of yesteryear. There’s something retro at its core that will likely appeal to some viewers, and have others hungry for fare with more modern sensibilities.

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