The Aviation Cocktail (2012) – By Philip Smolen

In the late 1950s, pilot Jack Fisher (Michael Haskins) receives a call from his older brother Sheriff Henry Fisher (Beau Kiger) to fly his plane out to a deserted location. It seems that serial killer Geoff Hadley (Mark Hanson) is holed up in an abandoned barn with a female hostage and he wants a plane so he can fly out. When Jack arrives, he’s met by his brother, good friend Bob Halloran (Brandon Eaton) and a posse. Before Hadley can get in the plane, there is a shootout and he is severely wounded. Afterwards, Henry, Bob and Jack find that his victim is already dead. The trio takes Hadley on Jack’s plane and on the way back, Bob kills him. Jack and Henry don’t object to this and believe that they have acted justly. But as the days pass, each man’s own life begins to fall apart as a result of their decision.

“The Aviation Cocktail” is the full length film debut of David Higgins and it’s a gritty and accomplished feature. He focuses his story mostly on the plight of Henry and Bob, and juxtaposes their real life troubles with Jack’s idyllic life. Bob and Henry returned from the war (it’s unclear whether it was World War II or Korea) and thought their lives would turn out very different. Bob makes a living as a traveling salesman and fills his life with alcohol, brief torrid affairs (including with Henry’s wife Alice (Leah Lockhart) and even more sinister things. Henry knows that Alice is unfaithful and drowns his sorrow in alcohol. Only Jack seems to have achieved the American dream. He’s married to the beautiful June (Katie Bevard) and they have two great kids. But his impotence is that he can’t help either Henry or Bob.

This film starts off with the exciting hostage scene and then turns slow and melancholy as Higgins dissects what his “heroes” are really like. Along the way, the film finds a way to really get under your skin. It’s got a great noirish flavor, even though it’s set in the wide open spaces of Nebraska. There are some great scenes of the characters standing in the emptiness of the countryside, with this vastness echoing the enormity of their own personal hell. The death of Geoff Hadley acts as a catalyst and starts Henry and Bob on the path to self destruction.

For an independent film “The Aviation Cocktail” features excellent production values, spectacular photography and a poignant music score (it’s also great to see so many great old American cars all in one movie). Higgins direction is surprisingly solid, especially for a first timer. He knows where he wants to take his characters and what he wants the film to say. Though there are some logical problems with the film’s major plot twist, “The Aviation Cocktail” is a potent and brooding indie film that features richly developed characters and some excellent performances (Kiger, Eaton and Lockhart stand out). This is a quality film that needs to be embraced by the indie community.

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