Writer: Dakota Loesch
Director: Scott Monahan
It is hard to resist making comparisons between Anchorage and the classic Easy Rider. After all both were made on extremely limited budgets, include a cast who also direct and write and feature drug-dealing anti-heroes whose cross-country journey of discovery holds up a mirror to contemporary America. However, whilst Easy Rider promoted awareness of the counterculture Anchorage is bleaker, almost nihilistic, in accepting rather than challenging the deterioration of the American dream.
Brothers Jacob (director Scott Monahan) and John (writer Dakota Loesch) have, it is implied, stolen a car-boot full of drugs. They agree this will make their fortune but differ as to how this can best be achieved. Jacob favours selling the stash in nearby Los Angeles, but John forcibly argues scarcity will ensure they get a much higher price in Anchorage, Alaska, although the latter requires an epic car journey.
It would be hard to mistake the brothers for anything other than drug dealers – Jacob has a mouthful of gold teeth and blue hair while shaven-headed John wanders around in a pair of red long johns not caring about the impression he creates. They are not characters to whom it is easy to relate. The closest to an effort to generate sympathy is the possibility the brothers may be traumatised by, and unable to forget, the death of their mother. This is mentioned in the opening scene and again during the violent conclusion with the disturbing comment– ‘’I’ll put us both in a box with our mother’’.
The scant budget does not limit the impact of the movie. As the brothers are on the run from whomever they have ripped off and also seeking to dodge any encounters with the law they avoid motels and instead squat in derelict buildings. As they rarely encounter any other travellers there is the sense of passing through a country devastated by some nameless event. In a rare example of humour as they pass through a deserted village the brothers call out small-town neighbourly greetings to the inhabitants who have long departed.
Anchorage is not a subtle film. America the Beautiful plays over scenes of the brothers taking drugs to the extent they vomit, and their drug paraphernalia is concealed inside a bible.
There is the strong sense the brothers do not really like each other and can only show affection when one or other is unconscious or absent. When Jacob’s over-indulgence in drugs sends him into a semi-coma he is gently cradled by his brother. Morbidly the brothers take turns giving the eulogy they plan to make at the other’s funeral. Jacob becomes increasingly wary/weary of his brother’s mood swings and his resentment of the choices he is forced to make as a result set the scene for the violent conclusion.
The disagreements between the brothers are realistically pointless and tedious. John wins the argument they should proceed to Anchorage not by constructing valid reasons but simply talking so long Jacob loses interest and agrees to go. However, if the brothers are annoying each other there is the strong possibility they may also irritate the viewer.
The outburst of violence as the film moves to a conclusion is likewise, pointless. Although John exhibits increasingly poor impulse control (shoplifting when the brothers are trying to avoid attention) to satisfy his need for excitement or chaos, the futile burst of violence comes less from the tragic sense of a character flaw and more the stale feeling of someone who takes a depraved pleasure in violence.
Anchorage is an unflinching look at a society staggering through an opioid dependency and a loss of faith. However, viewers may find the hardest aspect to endure is a pair of morally void characters with no redeeming features.
Bulldog Film Distribution presentsAnchorage in select cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema 1 September.