The American Dream has always been a tremendous influence on American crime films.
Whether it’s in classics like Goodfellas or modern gems like Hustlers, crime and gangster films present a dark outlook on the state of the American dream. Among the best crime films, like the ones I mentioned, there always seems to be a segment where the leads relish in their newfound power. These scenes can be necessary at reflecting the lead’s perspective of enjoying their newfound opulence, contrasting from their previous poverty. However, I appreciate films that dodge this trope altogether, maintaining a rawness seldom seen in modern cinema. Take Out Girl is one of those films, and it’s excellent.
The film focuses on Tera Wong (Hedy Wong, who also co-writes the film with director Hisonni Johnson), who takes up dealing drugs along with her food deliveries to help her family’s restaurant. Johnson understands how to compensate for his low budget by amplifying the gritty atmosphere of the low bottoms Los Angeles. The grit feels authentic, making the film more immersive and visually expressing Wong’s desperation and frustration. The film exudes cinematic empathy for everyone involved, without reducing the characters to tropes, and showcasing a level of realness rarely seen in modern crime films. Hedy Wong’s excellent performance only amplifies this vibe.
While the film features great performances all-around, Hedy Wong stands out as Tera, carrying the film with confidence and nuance. She shows how she’s intelligent, clever, and that in literally any other environment, she’d thrive, and she knows that. The boiling frustration always feels there, but she still exhibits a sense of humor that humanizes her character.
The film’s story is also tight and well-paced. Wong & Johnson keep the audience on Tera’s high as we bite our nails, waiting for the shoe to drop. As we, like Tera, are lulled into a false sense of optimism and security, the inevitable fall hits hard because of our emotional investment in Tera and the rest of the characters. The film does spend a little too long establishing motivation, not helped by a romance subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere. But once the film starts getting into the action, it maintains a steady pace and great tension. At 70 minutes, the film never overstays its welcome, making it a solid sit.
Overall, Take Out Girl is a compelling indie crime drama. It’s gleaming with edge, personality, great characters, and a contemporary story that feels both timely and relatable. Anyone who feels modern crime films are too glossy or traditional should seek this one out. You will not be disappointed.
Take Out Girl will be released VOD on May 18th and is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.