The Aviation Cocktail -- Review by Bill Garry
There's something going on around here; that nagging suspicion keeps you glued to the screen and interested in the lives of the extended Fisher family in writer/director David Higgins's The Aviation Cocktail. It's a tense noir murder-mystery and relational drama played out in the winter fields of 1958 Nebraska.
On the surface, Sheriff Henry Fisher is just a small-town husband and father who drinks a little too much. His brother Jack is one of those strong silent types who just wants to do good by his family and community. And their friend Bob Halloran is a goofy salesman who always keeps his gloves on and doesn't seem to work much.
But as the film moves through a hostage situation, a murder, an affair, a marriage in crisis, and other revelations, we see the deep connection (and entanglements) between these men. A subplot involving the brother of the murder victim has you scratching your head until the end when all is revealed. (The brother's flashback was too little, too early.)
You do, however, leave the theater satisfied that justice has been done and that the kids will be all right.
Higgins, working with editor Patrick Behan, tells the story creatively and efficiently. The actors are given room to breathe.
The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Mark Rutledge. Technical aspects (sound, sets, etc.) are excellent for the $1 million budget.
Beau Kiger (Sheriff Henry) and Leah Lockhart (Alice, his wife), stand out as multi-dimensional characters with a lot of hurt, and not much hope, left in them. They bring a lot of power to their scenes, saving a few (unhappy wife, alcoholic husband) from turning cliche. Michael Haskins (Jack Fisher, who runs the local air service), and Brandon Eaton (sinister salesman Bob Halloran) bring good balance to the ensemble, although they don't come off as the scarred WWII veterans they are supposed to be.
Supporting cast members -- Katie Bevard (June, Jack's simple wife), Mark Hanson (Geoff Hadley, is-he-or-isn't-he bad guy), and Connor Boyle (bottled-up Dale Riley, aforementioned brother) -- bring honest, interesting takes to their roles. The children and various neighbors (including a band that provides a great musical interlude) add a lot of color, although not intrinsic to the plot. In fact, the children are so cute that they distract from a main character that I haven't mentioned yet: the moody, early-morning Nebraska sky.