Ever see one of those movies where it constantly feels like you’re missing important details? This can happen at least once to anyone as a result of a wandering mind or an ill-timed trip to the washroom, but shouldn’t happen to a relatively attentive reviewer while watching a screener with rewind and pause functions.
The synopsis for Cascade is straight-forward enough. It’s the second film of 2023 to feature a crashed drug plane. No bears this time though (although there is a biker named Grizz played by John Tench embedded in the cast). In this case, it’s teenagers hiking in the wrong place at the wrong time who stumble across the orphan drugs. Adrenaline junkie Vince (Stephen Kalyn) and girlfriend Em (Sadie Laflamme-Snow) see no problem with helping themselves to some free cocaine to turn into pure profit whereas college-bound Alex (Sara Waisglass) and boyfriend Jesse (Joel Oulette) want no part in the scheme.
This schism between lifelong friends soon becomes moot as the shipment’s original owners soon storm the woods seeking the downed plane. A sudden auto collision and subsequent rounds of gunfire leave one of the friends dead and two more captured with only Alex left to rescue them. Matters are soon further complicated by the arrival of a biker gang led by Alex’s estranged father (Greg Bryk) who has his own plans for the bounty.
Like I said, the outline is straightforward enough. The confusion comes at multiple points during the execution where you’ll find yourself asking questions like: “How did that guy survive that jump off the cliff? If he fell in the water, why wasn’t he wet just minutes later? Why does one of the drug gang members change allegiances so easily? Why is this yet another Candian-shot movie set in a generic North American location? (The licence plates read “Home of the Pines” and the park rangers sport “National Parks Federation” patches). These may sound like nitpicks, but they do cumulatively dampen the viewing experience, leaving the viewer wondering if there were key deleted scenes cut or not even shot.
This being said, director Egidio Coccimiglio deserves credit for shepherding a near-pitch perfect cast through well-shot proceedings in what is honestly an overall slickly produced film. The four teens are well-defined with lead Waisglass capably shouldering the lion’s share of the drama and the remaining trio delivering memorable and sharply-defined performances. Special mention goes to Josh Cruddas as the lizard-eyed ginger hitman Cutter who is genuinely unsettling enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone avoided him at the film’s wrap party.
Cascade is a slick package wrapped in needless enigma. It’s nice to look at and often delivers on thrills, but the shortcuts it takes leaves the journey feeling more empty than it ought to be. You could certainly do worse for nature-based thrillers this year, just be prepared to write your own fan fiction to fill in the blanks.
Cascade will be released on all major VOD platforms June 6