Derived from a bushel basket of familiar coming-of-age stories, Low Tide is a low-budget independent production about four bored teenagers in a hick town on the Jersey shore who pass the time during high-school vacation smoking pot, drinking beer and robbing the houses of summer tourists. Caught in the middle of one robbery, one of the boys escapes detection by jumping off the roof and breaking his leg. That leaves only a trio of petty crooks to carry on the criminal activities, relieving homeowners of everything from earrings to Cuban cigars. Mostly they just bore each other to death while the movie does the rest.
In lieu of a missing plot, one night two members of the gang—the sons of a local commercial fisherman—find a secret cache of gold coins worth $100,000 and decide to keep their treasure a secret. Older brother Alan (Keean Johnson) makes the mistake of using one coin to buy a car, arousing suspicion among the others. Alan buries the other coins for future spending while his brother Peter (Jaeden Martell), the youngest and smartest sandwich at the picnic, asks the film’s only important question: “What happens if someone comes looking for them?” Of course someone does.
LOW TIDE ★★
Dodging a local cop who is out for blood is hard enough, but when Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri), the one with the broken leg, threatens to spill the beans to Red (Alex Neustaedter), the hotheaded, short-tempered one who carries a loaded gun and a switch blade, things turn lethal. In the end the consequences of betrayal are dire as the two brothers risk everything to stay alive.
The boys are all excellent, especially Johnson as the conflicted but basically decent Alan, and writer-director Kevin McMullin knows how to move them in and out of scenes with maximum naturalism, but his screenplay lacks the suspense necessary to sustain even the mercifully brief 84-minute running time. There is insufficient character development and insight, and the film has no ending, so the viewer just hangs in space, asking a million questions for which there are no answers. Low Tide wafts, and so does audience interest.