Went to Coney Island On A Mission From God...Be Back By Five

The great thing about independent movies is that the makers can pretty much do whatever the hell they want. That basically explains the title Went to Coney Island On A Mission From God...Be Back By Five, which also not quite succinctly summarizes the plot of the movie. A movie like this can not be made in the Hollywood mainstream. There is not enough action, not enough special effects, and too much thought. This is a special film for writer/director Richard Schenkman and writer Jon Cryer. Cryer based the movie on an experience of his, and what an experience it must have been. Two friends learn that a childhood friend of theirs with whom they lost contact is now homeless and living on Coney Island. They go in search of him.

It is a journey that is ultimately transcendental for Daniel (Cryer, The Pompatous of Love, No Small Affair) and Stan (Rick Stear). They grew up with Richie (Rafael Baez) and then lost touch after graduation. Stan learns of Richie and Coney Island, and retrieves Daniel. It seems that when they were children, the code "mission from God" meant that it was urgent. The two drop everything and go to Coney Island. Revealing whether or not they find Richie is a moot point - kind of like revealing whether or not the soldiers in Saving Private Ryan find Private Ryan. It happens. Deal with it. It is the journey and lessons learned along the way that are important.

Cryer and Schenkman turn the search for Richie into a metaphor. Both Daniel and Stan are also looking for their innocence. Stan has a drinking problem, cannot hold a job, and is fighting with his longtime girlfriend Gabby (Ione Skye, Four Rooms, Gas Food Lodging). His life is slowly sinking. Stan has a dead end job. Something happened after graduation, and the more they look for Richie, the more they realize this. Childhood for them was a better time, and they feel that by finding Richie and making things right, they can somehow regain some of their wonder for life. It is the people they meet along their journey that help them realize this. Everyone from a waitress and a lovelorn man to a skee-ball attendant somehow affect them with their words. Coney Island represents their lives. At one time, it was beautiful and fun. Now, it is the dead of winter. The people are gone, the rides are shut down, and everything is in a state of disrepair.

Schenkman and Cryer let the majority of the story unfolds in flashback. As Stan and Daniel walk around Coney Island, their memories reveal what happened in the past. Because there is not a whole lot going on, it allows for introspection. Stan and Daniel talk about their lives, their hopes and their dreams. They are unglamorous people, thoroughly normal in every sense of the word. They increasingly want their lives to amount to something. Cryer and Stear give realistic portrayals of two longtime friends coming to this realization. Baez also gives a great, subtle performance. Richie is also a complex character, and because of the story, his thoughts and emotions cannot be explored fully. The title may be lame, but don't let this be the deciding factor in seeing this movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for language.

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