In a laughable scene in Dawn Patrol, John (Scott Eastwood) passes a joint to his brother (Chris Brochu) while riding a skateboard, and director Daniel Petrie Jr. stages the moment in drawn-out slow motion, as if he expected it to appear as a SportsCenter highlight. This kind of tacky, on-the-nose treatment is representative of Petrie’s choices throughout the movie — though, in his defense, the screenplay he’s working from (co-written by Rachel Long and Brian Pittman) is a mess in its own right.
Following a clumsy opening in which John, clad in Marine clothing, recounts his story to a woman (Julie Carmen) as she holds him at gunpoint, the movie flashes back to the summer of 2008. Petrie takes his time detailing the habits of John’s beach-bum, surfer-bro lifestyle: paper-bagged 40s, wake-up bowl hits, morning bike-rides in Ugg boots. Jeopardizing the laid-back rhythm of this routine is John’s horrible brother, Ben (Brochu), who despises the local Hispanics and treats Donna (Kim Matula), his on-again, off-again girlfriend, like garbage.
The plot kicks in when John finds Ben dead from a gunshot. The developments keep getting more outrageous from there, with the psychologies of the characters becoming increasingly bizarre. Long-suppressed tensions between John and his parents resurface, with both his mother (Rita Wilson) and his on-the-wagon father (Jeff Fahey) using the murder to challenge John’s manhood.
Donna, meanwhile, takes to seducing John, and while the misogyny of these scenes is no less inexcusable than it is elsewhere in the movie, it’s still a hoot to watch Eastwood’s scrambling for various expressions of confusion and regret while Donna strips in front of him.