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The Independent Critic

Scott Winters, Jennifer Nichole Porter, Brian A. White and Kathleen Kimball
Dana Packard
Jennifer Nichole Porter
120 Mins.
Honey Tree Films


 How can you not watch a film with Wayne Newton?  
 I'm always up for a film that has Wayne Newton in the mix. 

Seriously. Wayne friggin' Newton. I love that guy. Heck, I'm singing "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" right now. 

Okay, back to the movie. 

But man, I love Wayne Newton.

I really enjoyed 40 West, as well, a terrific ensemble film that packs a powerful punch with a consistently authentic tone led by the slowly burning performance of Jennifer Nichole Parker, who also pens the film and composes the sizzling music. 

Parker plays Maeve, a blues musician who finds herself trapped in an East Texas motel room with her just released from prison hubby, Colin (Brian A. White), and a "good samaritan" (Scott Winters) whom you're pretty sure isn't exactly what he seems to be up front. Colin seems to want to apologize for his past behavior and has a special present to sort of make it all official, but an unexpected visit from his prison girlfriend Arlene (Kathleen Kimball) and her maniacally jealous husband (Wayne Newton) is really going to complicate everything. 

If that seems like a lot to pack into one film - it is. That's likely why 40 West feels a good 30 minutes too long, but even at 30 minutes too long the film is a cinder box filled with explosive emotions like love, obsession and possibly even some strange idea of forgiveness. It's no wonder the film has proven to be wildly popular on the film fest circuit and picked up a few prizes along the way like the Golden Palm Award at Mexico International Film Festival, a Jury Prize at Honolulu Film Awards, Diamond Award at California Film Awards, Best Comedy at Mountain Film Awards and the Grand Jury Prize at Amsterdam Film Festival along with several others. While one could argue the film would have benefited more from some tightened editing, director Dana Packard has a pretty remarkable artistic vision and a clear ability to bring that vision to life. 

It helps to have a terrific cast, led by Porter's blues-tinged performance. Brian A. White is terrific as a man just released from prison and with more than a little edginess going on. Scott Winters is also top notch, while enough can't be said with Wayne Newton's relatively brief yet perfectly nuanced performance. 

The film's tech credits are also top notch including Ian McGlocklin's shadow-tinged lensing, Eric Matheson's inventive yet intimate production design and Ashleigh Walsh's art direction that helps lend the film a look that is best described as comfortably uncomfortable. 

40 West is now available for purchase on DVD or through web streaming. Fans of indie cinema will want to be sure to check out this strong effort from writer Jennifer Nichole Parker and director Dana Packard, two pros who I have no doubt we'll be hearing from again. 

© Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic