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5LBS of Pressure Review: Generic Crime Drama

Luke Evans sits on a bench in the film 5LBS of Pressure

5LBS of Pressure never really distinguishes itself, more intent to be a generic crime drama than a worthwhile character study.

Every year, hundreds upon hundreds of generic genre films are released either straight to VOD or with minimal theatrical windows. Most are somehow able to attract major talent – talent that’s appeared in respectable projects before. Some are pulpy fun. Some are just as disposable as their digital rental price. Writer-director Phil Allocco’s crime thriller 5LBS of Pressure sits somewhere in the middle.

The film, which stars recognizable actors like Luke Evans, Rory Culkin, and Alex Pettyfer, is a by-the-numbers scumbag crime drama that never really carves out a niche of its own. Evans stars as Adam, a parolee who’s just been released for murder and wants to go on the straight and narrow. He tries reconciling with his ex Donna (Stephanie Leonidas) and his now-grown son Jimmy (Rudy Pankow), keeping his nose clean and avoiding trouble whenever it comes his way. The problem is that he murdered the brother of Eli (Zac Adams), a small-time drug dealer that works under Leff (Pettyfer) and Mike (Culkin).

5LBS of Pressure mostly meanders for its almost two-hour runtime as it explores the lives of these men who try to find a way out of the life they’ve chosen. If anyone makes it out of the film intact, it’s Culkin, who approaches Mike as a naive, wannabe thug. More inclined to appease his uncle than to actually invest his energy in the drug trade, Culkin makes Mike one of the film’s most interesting characters.

While everyone else is caught in their own low-grade version of The Departed, Adam is stuck in a domestic drama, as he slowly introduces himself to Jimmy without giving away their real relationship. Evans is surprisingly natural in the role, much greasier than in his parts in the Hobbit films and Beauty and the Beast. But, much like most of these characters, Jimmy feels less like a tangible person than a plot contrivance to get from one point to another.

Luke Evans stands in front of a graffiti in the film 5LBS of Pressure
5LBS of Pressure (Lionsgate)

Crime dramas can easily find ways to make a statement about America, or the impossibilities of parolees to find a way out of the cycle of crime, but 5LBS of Pressure never really attempts to have this kind of conversation. There’s a bit in Allocco’s script about the regrets of men who make split-second decisions, but it’s nothing that hasn’t already been said countless times before. Both Adam and Eli have made stupid decisions that cost them dearly – Adam with the murder, and Eli in his borderline toxic relationship with his girlfriend Aliyah (Laura Hopper). But it gets lost in the weeds and never feels nuanced enough to make an impression.

There’s another version of 5LBS of Pressure that’s much schlockier and more embarrassing, though there are certainly some regrettable moments, but Allocco simply skates by, doing the bare minimum necessary. It’s hard enough making any film in Hollywood, regardless of scale or quality, so I can’t fault anyone too much here. But I can easily advise you to seek out something with a little more entertainment value.

5LBS of Pressure will be released in US theaters, on digital and on demand on March 8, 2024.

5LBS of Pressure: Trailer (Lionsgate)

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