The Ice Cream Stop (2021)

From the moment that I read the script it was perfect. It didn’t need any changes. The subject matter was incredible. The writing was perfect for that subject matter. It had such a wide variety of emotional range that each character was going to bring to the table that it just jumped off the page.”
— Actor Paul Logan, with Alika Gasimova of ISAFF Interviews

To say that I, as a film critic, am privileged to have watched an advanced digital stream of this masterpiece, granted the opportunity to expose it to others, well, that’s what makes my job the best job there is. I’ve acted in my share of shorts, watched many at film festivals, and reviewed a few along the way for B&S About Movies, but never a short film like The Ice Cream Stop. Raul Perez and Thai Edwards are two unknown filmmakers with a major studio, A-List education as to the importance of the emotional impact and social influences of film; an art form that can, when expertly executed, can open eyes and instill a new perspective in the viewer.

Raul Perez, as with any film school graduate, ultimately wants to write and direct his own films. An up-and-coming actor, such as Thai Edwards, wants to be noticed and book larger roles beyond the usual shorts, web series, and network/cable under-five “day player” roles that serve as the beginning of an actor’s career. To quote Rodney Dangerfield: It’s tough out there, in Tinseltown. So amid his directorial work with shorts and music videos, Perez has worked in various capacities on the crews for the hit TV series Black-ish, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Ellen’s Game of Games, and Major Crimes. Thai Edwards, along with his writing-producing partner, Marty Baber, decided to take Tinseltown by its thorny star to become a wingtips-on-the-desk and cigar-chompin’ QWERTY warrior.

Here, in his eighth directing effort, Raul Perez makes his co-screenwriting debut in a fitting tale exploring our recent concerns regarding racial inequality and social injustice . . . and how one’s life can change in a moment at the mercy of another’s misplaced anger and bad decision making, turning another human being into an exorcising-personal-demons punching bag.

Surgeon Dr. Michael Harris (a solid Thai Edwards) returns home at 3 am from a double shift at the hospital to Tameka, his loving, pregnant wife (a ditto Nicola Lambo). Before going to bed, he asks her if she needs anything: she’s craving ice cream. Although exhausted, he decides to make a quickie-mart run.

It is on his return home that Micheal’s life changes: Officers Reynolds (Paul Logan) and Davis (Dustin Harnish), “aroused” by Micheal’s driving, initiate a traffic stop. Although Micheal checks out, the stop escalates upon the arrival of Officers Morales (Chris Levine) and Officer Smith (Jed Dennis), as their out-ranked level heads can not stop what’s been set in motion. At that moment, each of their lives change — and are connected beyond their mutual, traffic stop tragedy.

Not many films instill the sickness of a burning anger mixed with fear in the pit of your stomach . . . and cause you to shed tears. The Ice Cream Stop is a gut punch and not for the faint of heart. It is a film you must see.

The most recognizable face in the unfamiliar but effective cast of The Ice Cream Stop is actor Paul Logan. U.S. daytime TV fans know Paul for his four-year run as Glen Reiber on The Days of Our Lives. You’ve also seen him on the highly-rated SyFy Channel and mockbuster streamers Atlantic Rim: Resurrection, MegaFault, and Mega Piranha. Fans of TV’s Criminal Minds, Lethal Weapon, and NCIS will notice Nicola Lambo, while fans of TV’s S.W.A.T. will recognize Thai Edwards, who also appeared in the dramatic indie Anabolic Life with Chris Levine. B&S About Movies readers know the work of Chris Levine by way of the indie streamers No Way Out and his leading role in the upcoming, retro-’80s actioner, The Handler.

Courtesy of the pedigree of the network TV resumes in front of and behind the cameras, all of the disciplines are firing on all cylinders (oh, are they ever) — as the expertly-cut trailer above, proves. No trailer is complete without great cinematography: to that end, Chris Warren’s night photography is of a stellar, Oscar-level quality (reminding of J. Micheal Muro’s work in Paul Haggis’s Crash and Robert Richardson’s in Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead), making him a name to expect more great works.

The cast, via their superior acting skills, are instantly relatable: Thai Edwards and Nicola Lambo are pure, major studio chemistry as the expecting couple. Paul Logan and Dustin Harnish make us hate them, while Chris Levine and Jed Dennis — with little dialog and more body language and facial expressions (the signs of a truly great actor) — illicit sympathy; you feel their regrets that this “stop” is wrong. No actor can pull that off without a great script: the connection to the characters comes courtesy of an expertly crafted screenplay by Edwards and Perez that’s replete with perfect character arcs; everything the viewer needs — in a script that forces a dark, vile ugliness that exists in our society into our faces and causes us to look within ourselves — is there. Not many short films on the festival circuit leave you wanting more, saying, “Give these guys a budget to make this into a feature” (or do another film), which is the end game of some short films. The Ice Cream Stop is one of those very few film shorts to accomplish that goal.

I had to equate this literally to playing like a child molester or Hitler, someone who is loathsome and who you detest. You had to just go there. If you didn’t commit 100% percent to something like this, especially if this is not the way you think, the audience would see right through it.
— Actor Paul Logan, with Alika Gasimova of ISAFF Interviews

It’s no shock to this reviewer that The Ice Cream Stop recently completed successful, award-winning screenings at the Los Angeles Film Awards in March and the Colorado International Activism Film Festival in September. Currently continuing its festival run — and surely to win many more awards — you can follow the film at its official Facebook and Instagram portals to keep abreast of its commercial streaming release date. And do keep track, for The Ice Cream Stop is a film you must see.

If you enjoy film to the point of wanting to know what goes into making a film, you can learn more about the process through the insights of Raul Perez and Thai Edwards — as well as the rest of the cast — courtesy of their mutual interview with Isaff Interviews WordPress; the portal also offers a video version of the interview on You Tube. There’s more insights to enjoy at the personal website of Thai Edwards.

Just wow. I love this amazing film and await more from all concerned.

The cast and crew of The Ice Cream Stop: Front row, from left: Dustin Harnish, actor/screenwriter Thai Edwards, and Paul Logan. Second row, from left: Chris Levine, director Raul Perez, Nicola Lambo, project co-creator/producer Marcelle Baber, and Jed Dennis/image courtesy of Isaff Inteviews WordPress.

My partner Marcelle Baber, the creator of The Ice Cream Stop, is the one responsible for [the film] and gets the real credit. We all played our part individually and collectively in this project; Raul had a great vision on how to illustrate it and the cast just gave it a heartbeat, but without the idea that helped create the words in order to tell a story, [our film] would never be.

Marty [Marcelle Baber] had a dream and this was just a conversation that he brought to his cousin-by-marriage, Raul, and Raul, after ten-plus years of trying to get something going after a few failed attempts, brought [the project] to me and I took it on like any actor/executive producer who believed in the vision and all the people involved, would.

We all helped to develop and work on the storyline for about seven months; some of this actually came from personal experiences that happened to me and Marty . . . what happened to George Floyd just made us want to do something about it — but in a different way and take a different approach. This helped Raul a lot to come up with the shots needed for the film; it all took about six months after Marcelle brought it to us. This was a film given to us by God at a time when it was much needed. Above all, I’m just happy that we got the assignment given to us, right! It’s a hard watch: you’re either going to love it or hate it; but I see it to be a timeless piece, especially since things haven’t changed and the conversation about this, still, is a non-issue with some people.”
— Thai Edwards, to B&S About Movies

Disclaimer: We didn’t receive a review request or screener copy of The Ice Cream Stop from a PA firm or from a distribution company. We discovered the film on our own via social media and were provided a screener for the film upon our request. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. In addition to writing film reviews for B&S About Movies, he publishes on Medium.

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