Detonator opens with an extreme close-up of a tattoo being lasered off. Initially, it’s not clear what’s going on, but slowly the puckering and burning of skin clues the viewer in. That process of erasure, the pain involved in removing what is not only a memento of youthful folly but also a badge of one’s former identity, pulls double duty in Detonator‘s setup; it’s both easily deciphered symbolism and foreshadowing of the pain to come as present wrestles with past.
Sully (Lawrence Michael Levine) has traded his glory days as a local Philly punk rock star for the hustle and grind of grown-up responsibilities; he has a cute wife, cuter young son, and a soul-sucking job.
Just as he’s wrestling with selling off some old equipment to buy a new bed, he receives a phone call from former bandmate Mick (Benjamin Ellis Fine), who wants one last wild night before he begins a brief jail sentence — of course, there is a darker ulterior motive in play.
Co-written and directed by Damon Maulucci and Keir Politz, the modest Detonator inverts the formula that’s been played for easy laughs in countless Hollywood comedies (bad-news old friend reappears to wreak havoc on staid life of former best pal) for an insightful, often funny, never glib character-driven tale about class angst, withered dreams, and the costs of adulthood.
The script is solid, but the film’s greatest assets are Levine’s visage and performance. His face isn’t just brushed with sadness; it’s been transformed into the mask worn by countless men whose default emotional status is that space between tears that will never be shed and quiet implosion.