Two childhood friends growing up in poverty in south Boston come under the influence of a local crime boss, only to strike out on their own when he is caught and imprisoned by the F.B.I.
Despite the marketing that features explosions and SWAT teams galore – neither of which actually appear in the film – What Doesn’t Kill You is a character-driven drama set in the world of petty urban crime. It centres on the friendship between Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo – both of whom giving strong performances – as they try to hustle their way through life making nickle and dime jobs while feeling unappreciated by the boss to whom they must constantly pay tribute. In this way it feels a little like Donnie Brasco with an added backdrop of the kitchen sink relationship between Ruffalo and his put-upon wife Amanda Peet which makes it feel more like domestic drama than crime thriller at times. It’s efficiently directed and well performed but lacks that certain something that makes a film feel special; Ben Affleck’s The Town covered similar ground a couple of years later with rather more flair.
Not bad though.