Dr. Donna Copeland’s
SCOTT EASTWOOD RITA WILSON
JEFF FAHEY DENDRIE TAYLOR CHRIS BROCHU
Dawn Patrol is likely to be among the worst of 2015’s early slate of films. Debuting at the Austin Film Festival, the drama touting itself as a film with a surfer-turned-Marine is quite a bit of false advertising. Clint Eastwood’s son Scott, making his leading film debut, is every bit as charming as his dad in his youth; everyone will be swooning over his surfer body, which is on display throughout the film. However, this is likely the worst film dealing with the world of surfing I have ever seen. Not only is the opinion of surfers in the film very low, but it’s low for women as well. Dawn Patrol takes a hard look at the sad world of bad parenting, a surfing community where parents encourage their sons to sell drugs, seek revenge, and revel in the same misery they find themselves in.
In a small surfing down near Santa Barbara, surfing brothers John (Eastwood) and Ben (Brochu) don’t have many expectations beyond catching waves, covering Surfer magazine, selling weed, and hooking up with chicks. John is older, wiser, and slightly more responsible than his fiery tempered surfing star brother and their alcoholic, drug addicted parents (Wilson, Fahey). When tragedy strikes one of the family members, their retaliation is only the beginning of the entire family’s downfall. John is surrounded by uneducated, poverty stricken, desperate family and friends who will do anything to hide their secrets.
This script looks and sounds a lot more like an episode of The OC or Baywatch than a feature film. It’s directed by Donald Petrie, Jr., who is far more familiar in his involvement in the TV movie of the week than feature films. His idea of subtlety or character development is equivalent to a soap opera. It doesn’t reinforce the story at all that Wilson and her highly visible breasts; Taylor, who is fully nude in the film; and the rest of the actresses degrade women to a level that can only reflect what the writers must think of mothers and daughters.
We see countless scenes of the young, hunky Ben defiling young girls, threatening violence, and abusing alcohol and drugs. Later, there is a scene where his father talks about opening a surf school in his son’s honor. “That’s what he would have wanted”, he says. This is absurd, since Ben’s character is so hedonistic and selfish—something his father witnessed on a daily basis. The inclusion of the Marine segment, where John is held at gunpoint retelling his story to his captor, is a pointless and unnecessary subplot that utterly fails in strengthening the already embarrassingly pathetic plot.
Final Thought – Poorly conceived, constructed and delivered film about a surfing community with no moral compass.
By: Dustin Chase
This film directed by Daniel Petrie, Jr., is disturbing in its portrayal of a bigoted, minimally educated family. The parents have not conveyed a hint of moral grounding to their two boys, John and Ben, whose lives center mostly around surfing, drugs, parties, and alcohol. (The parents also participate in the last three categories.) John (Scott Eastwood) does seem to have a better sense of social responsibility, but he doesn’t have a chance having the parents he has. I do sympathize with them that in the midst of the recession, their jobs are at stake and they are in danger of losing their house. But, unfortunately, they’re living right next to Latinos, and fuel the fire of hatred, rather than attempt to negotiate a better life for their kids. They buy into the myth that the Latinos are beneath them and don’t deserve what they have.
When the favorite of the two sons—Ben—is killed, the parents in their drunken state urge John “to do what’s right”—and not in a good sense. John finally succumbs, but it does not turn out well, and John joins the military to avoid being apprehended. Not surprisingly, he ends up with PTSD.
The script by Rachel Long and Brian Pittman of Dawn Patrol is truly irredeemable. I see no purpose in showing attitudes that will only serve to reinforce the same attitudes in our society and prolong the antagonism among groups that many of us strive to overcome.
Another negative aspect of the script is in its portrayal of women, who are shown to be spineless, capricious, seductive without loyalty or purpose, hateful, and emasculating.
The only possible redeeming quality of this film to me is the ending, where there is some accountability for bad behavior, and the plan for revenge at least has some thought behind it. This resolution does show some creativity. At last.
By Donna R. Copeland