Newcomer Josh Wiggins delivers a stellar performance in this delinquent drama, with support from Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis
Josh Wiggins makes a startling debut in Kat Candler’s Hellion, bringing to mind the scorching presence of River Phoenix in his portrayal of delinquent youngster Jacob Wilson. When he’s not setting fire to cars or tearing around on his dirtbike, Jacob spends his time defying deadbeat dad Hollis (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul), playing innocent for his aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis) or tolerating the clingy presence of his younger brother Wes (Deke Garner).
Candler’s script gives the whole cast plenty to work with, sketching out sensitive back stories for almost everyone involved: the Wilson family are struggling to cope with the passing of their wife and mother; Pam is conspicuously alone in a nice house; and one of Jacob’s regular partners in crime, Lance (Dalton Sutton), is developed from a one-note bully to a surprisingly sympathetic victim figure. If Candler’s attention to character detail is admirable though, her plotting suffers by comparison: a social services intervention plays out like a collection of big bad government cliches, while an attempt to inject some third act drama comes off as hamfisted and unrealistic in the face of all that’s happened before.
Still, Hellion deserves to be seen for the adolescent Wiggins’ performance alone – with echoes too of Jennifer Lawrence’s turn in Winter’s Bone, it’d be gratifying to see his career take a similarly meteoric turn.
Screening at Cineworld, Edinburgh, Tue 24 & Wed 25 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014.