The Henchman’s War (2013) – By Philip Smolen

Joe King (solemn Rick Kain) is a middle level hit man for local DC mob boss Tony “Cubby” Wagner (Robert Leembruggen) and he’s been doing all of Cubby’s dirty work for nearly 20 years. On his most recent hit, Joe was only supposed to kill a local politician who ran afoul of Cubby. Unfortunately, the politician’s wife was also home when Joe showed up so he is forced to kill her as well. Afterwards, Joe is horrified to realize that he knows the dead woman. Furious, he’s now determined to take out Cubby, even if this means starting a bloody gang war. So Joe starts to work his way back up the mob food chain, so he can confront his former boss and bring him down.

“The Henchman’s War” is a new indie thriller from DC filmmaker Anthony M. Greene. It’s a cool and sparse drama that recalls some of the great Hollywood revenge flicks such as “Point Blank” (1967) and its remake “Payback” (1999). There’s something inherently watchable in a movie about an amoral killer who suddenly discovers his moral compass and decides to right the wrongs of his life. And Greene doesn’t disappoint with this vision.

Greene populates his movie with good local DC actors who don’t look like the usual Hollywood types. This atypical look helps suggests additional emotional depth for his characters. Rick Kain is great as the silent, brooding Joe. He almost seems to be channeling a young Clint Eastwood (though he looks a lot like a young Harry Dean Stanton). Robert Leembruggen is also quite good as Cubby, the mob boss. He spends most of the movie explaining how he unfortunately got into the mob life and how’s he’s been miserable ever since. There is also some great supporting work here by Everett Rodd as the psychopathic killer Barry and Paul Sieber as the mercurial Billy Moss.

It’s always a rush to watch an indie feature and recognize it for the special film that it is. “The Henchman’s War” is an absorbing and muscular indie crime thriller that also benefits from an authentic feel. It’s every bit as good as any recent Hollywood thriller.

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