What Doesn't Kill You What Doesn't Kill You , a tough, authentic street drama born, bred, and shot in the no-spin zone of working-class South Boston, doesn't spell out… What Doesn't Kill You What Doesn't Kill You , a tough, authentic street drama born, bred, and shot in the no-spin zone of working-class South Boston, doesn't spell out… 2008-12-12 R PT100M Drama Mystery and Thriller Mark Ruffalo Ethan Hawke Amanda Peet Yari Film Group
Movie Review

What Doesn't Kill You (2008)

MPAA Rating: R
What Doesn't Kill You | Song of the Southie: Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Peet carry children, groceries
Song of the Southie: Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Peet carry children, groceries
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Limited Release: Dec 12, 2008; Rated: R; Length: 100 Minutes; Genres: Drama, Mystery and Thriller; With: Mark Ruffalo; Distributor: Yari Film Group

What Doesn't Kill You, a tough, authentic street drama born, bred, and shot in the 
 no-spin zone of working-class South Boston, doesn't spell out the origin of the movie's 
 title. Nor does it complete the second 
 half of Friedrich Nietzsche's famous 
 declaration to which it alludes — the part about making you stronger. There's no need for moralizing when the actions and 
 consequences are so clear and the story — of two local toughs at a critical juncture 
 in their lives — is so strikingly free of 
 romanticized Southie swagger.

It helps, surely, that Brian Goodman, an actor making a strong directorial debut, tells a version of his own life story here. And it's evident that a serious commitment to the tenets of 12-step recovery programs keeps him modest and honest about what works for getting stronger (if you keep working it).

In a harmonious pairing of temperaments and talents for portraying flawed men who enforce their codes of ethics on a sliding scale, Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo play Paulie and Brian, respectively — best friends from the Southie hood who fall under the sway of a local crime boss (played with 
 authority by Goodman). Paulie, single and loving it, keeps his head clear for business. But Brian, a husband and father under pressure, burrows downward into drugs and drink. (Amanda Peet is terrific as Brian's worn-down wife, sick of seeing her man 
 disappear before her eyes.) Goodman the filmmaker eloquently conveys what 
 Goodman the addict learned: that the climb back up and out is hell — and worth it. B+

Originally posted Dec 03, 2008 Published in issue #1025 Dec 12, 2008 Order article reprints