American Refugee Synopsis: With the American economy in collapse and the nation under martial law, a family seeks shelter in their neighbor’s bunker, where the danger inside is potentially greater than the danger outside.
The premise of the plot is really interesting. The gender roles of Americans are fairly defined with most men assuming the role of head of the household. American Refugee introduces a story in which these roles are challenged in the midst of a global crisis. I like a good end of the world story and this one comes by way of a collapse of the world’s financial institutions. The speed at which we see the breakdown of society is sobering and highlights a few inherent household concerns. I love the way that American Refugee introduces these concepts and how they collide into an awful situation for the Taylor family.
The casting is really good. Derek Luke and Erika Alexander are cast as leads. Sam Trammell is a scene-stealer, especially with the chemistry he has with Erika Alexander. The behavior of Sam’s character, Winter, is easy to identify and relate to. He’s clearly lived a life where he has had some trauma and his trauma leads to his irrational behavior. There are a few scenes with Sam that convey the sheer depth of his delusion but the shower scene is absolutely my favorite. We see a huge shift in Sam’s performance in the shower scene and the interaction between Sam and Erika absolutely knocks it out of the park here.
The pacing is a huge issue. Things move extremely quickly at the beginning with American Refugee hastily introducing Greg, Helen, and the family. American Refugee chooses to introduce both the collapse of the economy and the collapse of the Taylor’s’ marriage at the same time. This is very difficult to follow because the collapse of the economy is very overt while the decline of the marriage is subtle. There is evidence of the issues with the snappy comments back and forth but no explanation why.
There’s also a very sharp decline in societal rules that are explained in the background news reports on television. there are a few moments that reflect the new lawlessness of the world but there’s nothing to reinforce how society got that way so quickly or explain the complete absence of local officials. It’s like the purge but no explanation as to the police went.
The pacing also has a negative impact on the 2nd act also. American Refugee drags once we enter the bunker with Winter. The movie does a great job of developing Helen’s growth but nobody else. The lack of development for the other characters takes away from caring about their issues.
This movie had some good acting and some clever wordplay but that’s not enough. The ending took me completely out.