Frank & Penelope | Film Threat

The Boondock Saints actor Sean Patrick Flanery’s feature film debut as a director, Frank & Penelope (written by Flanery, with an original story by John Thaddeus), is a callback to the rebellious outlaw attitude of certain movies of the 90s, such as True Romance and Thelma and Louise. It is an offbeat, twisted thriller about love, violence, psychopaths, and redemption. This type of film isn’t for everyone, but that’s what indie filmmaking is all about.

The film kicks into motion with Frank (Billy Budinich) devastatingly catching his wife in the act of cheating, which understandably sets him on a downward spiral. Frank goes to drown his sorrows at a strip club, and that’s where he meets a dancer named Penelope (Cayley Cowan). He spills his sad story, and they decide that they’re going to run off together and travel on a beautiful road, like the one at the end of Thelma and Louise (Penelope has never seen the movie, so she has no idea that Frank means driving off a cliff).

Those are the events that start off Frank and Penelope’s ride-or-die journey across east Texas, which eventually leads them to a sadistic cult leader named Chisos (Johnathon Schaech). Along the way, there are some cool cameos by Sean Patrick Flanery as the strip club manager, Kevin Dillon as a sheriff, and Donna D’Errico showing range with a larger role as one of Chisos’ disciples named Mabel.


He spills his sad story, and they decide that they’re going to run off together…”

I enjoyed the style choices of Frank & Penelope. Billy Budinich has the look of a James Dean type, while Cayley Cowan is quite reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe as a blonde bombshell with a breathy way of speaking. The beautiful location of the desert is like having another character because of how vital and distinctive that kind of setting is (even though it’s been used so often, I still find the desert quite striking), which I really dig in movies like this and Breakdown. 

This movie reminded me of the strange kinds of flicks that you used to be able to come across on cable TV. Red Rock West is another film that comes to mind, featuring Nicholas Cage going toe to toe with a deranged Dennis Hopper in the desert. Genre movies like this are slowly going the way of the Buffalo, so it’s good to see Sean Patrick Flanery bring it via the indie route.

Johnathon Schaech is so good as a manipulative leader, who can be equally charming and evil all within the same scene. Brian Maillard is also on point as Cleve, the requisite hillbilly type of character in this kind of story.

It can be a strange, fun ride, but that’s not to say that Frank & Penelope is without any faults. Some of the acting can be a bit stiff at times, and there’s a subplot involving a nurse that seems unnecessary, even though Sonya Eddy is great in the role. As a result, the film likely won’t blow your mind, but it’s a solid entry in the genre nonetheless.

For screening information about Frank & Penelope, visit the Red Bud Studios official website.

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