Crime drama crosses cultural lines with Saro Varjabedian’s Respite.

Jimmy Baz (Monte Bezell) is a former cop turned private investigator who looks for people owing money to his dodgy clients and tracks down cheating husbands. He’s rough around the edges, and his life is a mess. When he’s asked to help a couple find their adopted son, he at first refuses, thinking the straightlaced couple have clearly made a mistake, but their pleading sways him to take their case. Their missing son Khalid (Ahmet Devran Dayanc) was a refugee from Afghanistan and grew up to be a studious college kid. His disappearance is unusual, and Jimmy follows a trail that pairs him with his former colleague, Detective Alves (Julián Juaquín) and his partner Amir (Haythem Noor). Together, the three men discover that there could be a serial killer targeting Muslim men, but Jimmy will soon find out that this crime goes much deeper and gets more personal than he expects.

Bezell as Jimmy with Miguel (Guillermo Iván), a former “associate.”

Varjabedian pulls from the gumshoe detective trope and adds a Middle Eastern twist that is very much welcome. I’m always looking for representation and proof that something familiar can work with a diverse cast. Varjabedian and his co-writer Ali Abouomar do this by taking a culturally specific story and making it relatable to a broader audience with a mystery/crime drama template. It’s a smart way of crossing cultures, and I want to see more of it.

The story is engaging, much like episodic television, and the performances work with the material. Bezell is solid as the tortured Baz and riffs well off of Juaquín. Jimmy Baz could easily star in his own show, with a cast of Brown actors and stories that embrace the generational immigrant experience. However, it’s all very subtle. No morals are being preached to the audience, and you won’t find any demonizing of Middle Eastern people, but I’m not from the culture, so my experience will certainly be different. All I can say is that I didn’t have my usual mental red flags go up. The story pinpoints the horrors of war and how the US and Afghanistan reached their goal, regardless of innocents. The action is well-paced and engaging, save the climax. Some may find it takes you out of the story due to choices that may come off as comical despite the gravity of the situation. Julian Cassia’s scoring ties the film together, creating tension with a mid-east flair without bombastic overkill.

See this compelling and gritty thriller out on VOD now.

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