The Track: Unlikely Friendships Emerge on the Dark Side of Las Vegas
By Russell D. Christian, Esq.
(Las Vegas) The 2016 Las Vegas Film Festival came to a dramatic conclusion this past Sunday with screenings of two films, each with their own powerful message: Children of the Mountain by Priscilla Anany (you can read my review here) and The Track by Brett Levner.
The Track was one of numerous home grown features to screen at the Festival, and amidst this crowded field won the coveted “Best Local Feature” award. Featuring superb acting, excellent production, and a locally-themed original story, The Track also raises awareness of the dangers of sex trafficking and exploitation of young women.
The Track originally began in 2012 as an award winning short film, and after a crowdfunding campaign and help from producers Matt McCue, Steve Sole, Domenica Castro (who has a cameo in the film), and May May Luong evolved into a full feature film. Co-Writers Brett Levner (a UNLV film school professor) and Matthew McCue deserve credit for creating an excellent story that was filmed exclusively in Las Vegas and Boulder City. Like many of the locally filmed features at the Festival, The Track cleverly and artistically utilizes local landmarks, actors, and music in order to tell this story of the unlikely friendship that develops between Caren (Missy Yager), a mother who recently lost her child, and Barbie (Mariah Kirstie), an underage girl forced to work as a prostitute in downtown Las Vegas.
Both Yager and Kirstie are outstanding in their respective roles, and their on-screen chemistry came across as genuine as they both struggled to support each other through their respective difficulties. The film was also bolstered by strong performances by veteran actors Sam Trammell (True Blood) , Clarence Gilyard, Jr. (Walker Texas Ranger), and Mike Doyle (Green Lantern, Law & Order). In my opinion, however, the breakout performance of the film was by Natasha Marc as “Destiny”, Barbie’s best friend who also works as a prostitute for their pimp “Tony” (in a strong performance by Michael Muhney). Both Destiny and Barbie dream of leaving their lives on “the track” (slang for the area where the prostitutes work), but ultimately end up choosing different routes to achieve that dream. I was also very impressed with Ryan LeBoeuf in his role as “Timothy”, Barbie’s high school friend, and thought that the scenes involving these two were some of the emotional highlights of this powerful film.
Perhaps the best surprise of the film was the impressive acting debut of local hero Esther Brown, founder of The Embracing Project, a non-profit organization which focuses on youth affected by gang violence and victims of commercial sex trafficking. Many in the Las Vegas community are familiar with Brown and the tireless work she performs to help our community, and several years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a Continuing Legal Education Course on immigration issues that Brown was participating in. In the post film Q & A session, she humorously described how the producers kept asking her for advice for a character based on her work, only to realize they were better off just having her play herself on screen. The suggestion works, as her passion for her work is just as obvious on screen as it is off.
The Track also features an outstanding selection of local music from Las Vegas artists, most notably Rusty Maples, whose brilliant EP The Western World managed to find its way into numerous scenes. Overall The Track was an excellent film which featured outstanding acting and an original script. I was very happy to see yet another film that Las Vegas can add to its growing list of films which we can embrace as our own, and I hope that the world outside Las Vegas also embraces this movie. At its heart is a touching story of an unlikely friendship which also raises awareness about an unfortunate issue that exists on the dark side of Sin City.
For more information on The Embracing Project go to: http://www.theembracingproject.org/