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Just Another Desperate Day in the Life of a Drug Casualty

Watching wasted people stumble from one fix to the next is rarely riveting cinema, and “Cocaine Angel” does little to disprove that rule. Yet Michael Tully’s shambling observation of a day (and a bit more) in the life of Scott (Damian Lahey, who also wrote the wisp of a story) refuses to wallow in addiction angst. Harnessing the twin virtues of drollness and economy, Mr. Tully keeps scenes brief and melodrama on the margins. In his hands, the search for syringe and vein is neither noble nor ridiculous. It just is.

Kelly Forester and Damian Lahey in Michael Tully’s “Cocaine Angel.”

Making excellent use of its Jacksonville, Fla., locations, “Cocaine Angel” tracks a sweaty Scott as he shuffles from murky bar to gloomy apartment, berating himself in restroom mirrors and interacting with his variously ruined friends.

Abandoned and neglected children haunt the fringes of the movie, their presence a reminder of future consequences, but nothing so maudlin as a wailing infant is allowed to distract from our stubbly protagonist. Whether Scott is searching for drugs, his girlfriend or the inevitable emergency services, Mr. Lahey gives him a wounded energy that connects the character to a past that remains unrevealed.

Veering from the unlikely (Scott’s unsupervised visitation with his daughter) to the ridiculous (a 30-minute bout of fellatio, thankfully not filmed in real time), “Cocaine Angel” straggles along with an insouciance that belies its inherent tragedy. We may learn nothing new about the grasp of addiction, but the movie’s lean 75 minutes is at least a genuinely fast track to oblivion.

COCAINE ANGEL

Opens today in Manhattan.

Directed by Michael Tully; written by Damian Lahey; director of photography, M. Shawn Lewallen; edited by Dave Lahn; music by Max Richter and Brian Jenkins; art director, David Wilson; produced by Mr. Lahey and Mr. Tully; released by Indiepix. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third Street, at Avenue A, East Village. Running time: 75 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Damian Lahey (Scott), Kelly Forester (Mary), Jamie Dawson (Helen), Richard Dawson (Hurricane Mike), Anne Knowles (Cindy), Adonis Boyd (Travis), Dave Tyrant (Joey), Christina Ward (Prom Girl) and Bianca Franco (Lisa). (New York Times)

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