In writer-director Kit Candler’s debut feature, the actors do powerful work despite a screenplay whose plotting often feels forced and schematic.
Thirteen-year-old Jacob (Josh Wiggins) has been put on juvenile probation in his small Texas town for vandalizing a truck, an act of fury fueled by grief over the recent death of his mother. His father, Hollis (Aaron Paul), barely notices, and instead keeps running off to Galveston to work on the dream house he never finished for his late wife.
That leaves Jacob to look after the little brother (Deke Garner) who worships him. The boys are angry at Hollis for having briefly abandoned them after their mother died, but like so much of Candler’s plot turns, including the inevitable appearance of a gun, Hollis’s failings aren’t entirely believable.
What does feel true is the deep vein of male rage Candler has tapped, in Hollis and his sons, and in Jacob’s troubled friends. Hellion offers Paul his most adult screen role so far, and he’s very fine, but the movie belongs to Wiggins, a newcomer whose innate gifts are a perfect echo of Paul’s.
Jacob’s anger is a wonder to behold, and so potent that his father is struck dumb by feelings most every parent eventually knows: fear and awe.