Crime dramas usually spend too much time concentrating on their action sequences rather than the plot and character development. What little story there is can easily be replaced with five-minute shoot-outs and a high body count. That’s not the case with Two Step,written and directed by first-timer, Alex R. Johnson. He takes a generic plot and uses it to focus on the community that he has created. Instead of the gore aspect, Johnson focuses on the relationships between the characters. It packs punches with a slow burn instead of constant action, making it more tantalizing.
Set in rural, small-town Texas, the story opens with college dropout, James (Skyy Moore), visiting his grandmother. After she suddenly passes away, he discovers that she has left everything to him- including 85,000 dollars. This seems like a dream for an 18-year-old until he collides with Webb (James Landry Hebert), a violent con artist who scams senior citizens out of their money.
The film is a fascinating character study. Instead of countless action sequences, Johnson creates incredibly vivid characters who shine in every scene. The first half focuses on James and his neighbor Dot (Beth Broderick), a dancer who knows her way around the bar scene and is more than twice his age. They strike up a friendship that is both platonic and maternal, making the first half of the film pleasant and endearing.
However, that all changes when we’re introduced to Webb. I had never hated a character more than him. Thanks to the combination of Hebert’s interpretation and Johnson’s writing, I wanted to spit on the screen hoping that he would feel it. Johnson never spoon feeds the audience on why Webb was so horrible. There was never any backstory or other explanation. The audience knew he was horrible by studying how people acted around him, and it was brilliant. When he’s with his former boss, Duane (Jason Douglas), his contempt for Webb is apparent though there is never a reason (do you need one, though?). While he was certainly the most despicable, he was also the most interesting and that made the ride all the better.
The tension in this film was incredible. Without using any twists or turns, Johnson was able to create an incredibly stressful atmosphere. The scenes between Moore and Hebert were intoxicating and enraging and provided enough conflict that I was content with the lack of physical action. Unfortunately, Two Step will probably never get the recognition it deserves, but those who watched it will definitely remember. The beautiful shots and script disguised the low budget well and made for something stressful yet addicting to watch.