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Call Sign Romeo Review

June 29, 2023 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Call Sign Romeo Image Credit: Freestyle Digital Media
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Call Sign Romeo Review  

Call Sign Romeo Review

Chris Ana– Chris Torres
Rebbekkah Eller– Lisa Morgan
Kelsey Thompson– Sarah Torres
John Wilson– Coach Kelvin
Milosz Gargol– Marcus Zelinski
Jeremiah Derby– Jack Creef
Cami Miller– Carla Tillett
Joshua Reed– Zachary Philips
Stuart Parks II– Digger
Charlie Tucker– Michael Torres

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Raymond Wallace
Screenplay by Sam Cortez and Stuart Parks II

Distributed by Freestyle Digital Media

Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language
Runtime– 105 minutes

Image Credit: CSR Productions

Call Sign Romeo, directed by Raymond Wallace and set to hit all digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms starting on July 4th, 2023, is a sort of coming of age youth drama and inspirational sports drama rolled into one. Inspired by real life events (that’s what the credits claim), Call Sign Romeo features some fine performances from a mostly novice cast (imdb shows that, for most of the cast, Call Sign Romeo is their first movie). The movie has a few pacing issues (the movie is about ten minutes too long), but for the most part it’s an entertaining movie for all ages (it really doesn’t deserve its PG-13 rating) and that’s what matters. The movie also has a nice message about never giving up and, in general, working as a team to achieve a goal. The world needs to be reminded of that sometimes.

Call Sign Romeo stars Chris Ana as Chris Torres, a high school wrestler who desperately wants to be a pilot in the Navy like his father. In fact, Chris has tried to model his entire life around the idea of becoming a Navy pilot (for instance, he takes flying lessons so he can get a leg up on everyone if and when he gets to be in the Navy). Chris also hopes to get a scholarship to the Naval Academy. Chris’ grades aren’t the greatest (his grades are solid, yes, but he’s not exactly what you would call an honor student), but he figures if he does well on his high school wrestling team that he will get picked by the Naval Academy. Chris’ singular focus annoys his girlfriend Lisa Morgan (Rebbekkah Eller), a competitive high school swimmer with aspirations of going to West Point (Lisa is all about the U.S Army). Lisa likes that Chris has a goal and is working towards it, but she feels as though he’s focusing a bit too much on getting accepted by the Naval Academy. Getting full rides at places like the Naval Academy and West Point is difficult and there’s a chance that it might not happen, despite all of their hard work. Chris, obviously, doesn’t agree with that point of view and doesn’t want to hear about how there’s a chance he might not get what he wants.

Image Credit: CSR Productions

While all of that is going on, Chris is told by his wrestling coach, Coach Kelvin (John Wilson) that he is going to be one of the team’s captains alongside Marcus Zelinski (Milosz Gargol). Chris isn’t interested in being a captain. Christ thinks being a team captain is babysitting; he would much rather just win his matches so he can be number one. Coach Kelvin tells Chris that he has to be one of the team’s captains. Chris eventually, grudgingly, agrees to Kelvin’s request, but then he isn’t too keen on being a co-captain with Marcus (Marcus isn’t all that interested in being co-captain with Chris, either).

So then we see a bunch of stuff happen: we see Chris interact with and continually argue with Lisa about their futures; we see Chris train for both the wrestling team and getting his pilot’s license (Chris flies with trainer extraordinaire Digger, brilliantly played by the movie’s co-screenwriter Stuart Parks II); and we see Chris interact with his Mom Sarah (Kelsey Thompson) and little brother Michael (Charlie Tucker). Throughout it all we see Chris at maximum confidence. He knows what he wants, he knows where he wants to go, and he will not accept anything but what he wants. Anything else will be considered less than what he wants and, to Chris, that’s just unacceptable. The people in Chris’ life keep telling him that it’s great to have life goals and to strive for things that you want, but Chris also needs to understand that there are other aspects to life than his goals. They keep telling Chris that he needs to broaden his perspective. But Chris won’t listen.

And then “bad” stuff starts happening. Chris starts losing wrestling matches. He doesn’t embrace the mentor role given to him by Coach Kelvin (Kelvin wants Chris to personally mentor the only girl on the team, Carla, as played by Cami Miller. Marcus also fails at his mentor role. Kelvin has Marcus mentor Zachary, played by Joshua Reed). Chris gets his ass kicked while sparring with two Navy SEALS (he goes to see the Naval Academy wrestling coach, played by Terry Schappert, and practices with two Navy SEALS that just demolish Chris). Chris breaks up with Lisa after a stupid argument (most of his arguments with Lisa are stupid). Chris ends up getting a concussion and crashes his motorcycle and ends up having to miss multiple team workouts and practices. And Chris ends up getting into a huge argument/brawl with Marcus which causes Marcus to get expelled from school.

It’s not a spoiler to say that, by the end of the movie, Chris figures out what he’s doing wrong with his life and manages to succeed despite going through much adversity. There’s no way in hell Call Sign Romeo is going to end with some downer, ambiguous ending, especially after a brief subplot involving someone attempting suicide (it’s the toughest scene in the movie. I’m going to assume that this subplot is ultimately why the MPA gave the movie a PG-13 rating but, while it is disturbing, it isn’t PG-13 level disturbing. It just isn’t). Somehow the movie is going to end on a high note. It has to.

And it does.

The movie’s various wrestling sequences, both when the team trains and practices, and the various meets, are well done. It’s a low budget movie so there are no meets inside cavernous arenas and whatnot (the big state championship sequence is a bit bigger in terms of scope but not by much), but you do get a sense of the aggression and attempted precision of the kids battling one another on the mat. You can tell director Wallace and company spent quite a bit of time making sure the actors used the right technique while doing the wrestling scenes. None of the kids are what you would call monsters size wise so, in order to make the wrestling believable, you need to see them do takedowns and suplexes and whatnot.

Image Credit: CSR Productions

The movie could have used a few more flying scenes. Stuart Parks II, who plays Chris’ flying instructor Digger, is hilarious. Digger is a smartass of the highest order, but he can get away with it because he’s also the coolest guy in the room. I would have loved to see more of Digger teaching Chris how to fly, what instruments to use, etc. I’m surprised that there isn’t a “high stakes” scene in the movie where Digger has to help Chris land the plane or do something with the plane to add to Chris’ other problems. Digger is also another wise male character in Chris’ life, just like Coach Kelvin. Why isn’t Digger doling out more life advice? I know that Digger unexpectedly figures into the way the movie ends and it’s meant to be a sort of surprise, but I think that Chris’ growth would have been more poignant if he had more than just Coach Kelvin in his life.

Chris Ana is fantastic as Chris Torres. Ana gives Chris Torres just the right amount of supreme self-confidence and arrogance that makes you want him to succeed in his life goals and, at the same time, get his comeuppance for being so damn arrogant. Chris Torres is a nice kid, sure, but he needs to listen to the people in his life. Ana also excels in the wrestling sequences he has to participate in. You totally buy him as a top notch high school wrestler who also likes to showboat before a match. I’m amazed that he was able to do the handstand bit without breaking a hand or a wrist. This is Ana’s first movie, and I don’t think it’s wrong to say that he has a future in the movie business if he keeps at it.

Rebbekkah Eller does a nice job as Lisa, Chris’ girlfriend. She isn’t in the movie as much as Chris, but Eller manages to appear wise beyond her years. I mean, she’s just as young as Chris Torres, wants a similar goal out of life (to go to West Point), and is a top notch high school athlete (she’s a swimmer) but she has a much better handle on things. How did she develop such a firm grasp on the world and life and Chris Torres hasn’t? Much like Ana, Call Sign Romeo is Eller’s first movie, and if she decides to keep acting she should have a bright future in the movie business.

Milos Gargol is absolutely despicable as Marcus Zelinski. You get the sense very early on that Marcus is a jerk and that he personally thrives on that kind of behavior. Very few people ever confront him on his questionable attitude because they’re afraid of him, they want him to figure out that he’s a jerk on his own and then fix himself, or they’re not paying enough attention to care. Marcus can kind of get away with being a jerk on the wrestling team as long as he wins/as long as the team wins. When the team stops winning, then Marcus’ aggression is going to be a problem. And that’s exactly what happens in the movie. But Marcus’ jerk attitude isn’t his “natural” state. You’ll see why he isn’t a lost cause (although with some of the stuff that he does and initiates you wouldn’t blame people for abandoning Marcus. You just wouldn’t). Great stuff.

And John Wilson is a revelation as Coach Kelvin. Wilson, in his first movie role, is both a nice guy and someone, because he’s a high school sports coach, wants results. Coach Kelvin wants to win and he wants his athletes to win, too. But Coach Kelvin isn’t a complete psycho when it comes to winning. Winning isn’t the only thing that matters. He wants everyone on his team, especially Torres, to understand that teamwork is the most important thing. Winning as a team is important. And listening to those that have been there before you is important, too. You wouldn’t blame Coach Kelvin if he decided that Torres was too much of a hassle to coach and be a part of the team. Torres just refuses to listen. But Coach Kelvin will keep working with Torres and everyone else on the team. Kelvin understand that it’s his job to make his kids understand what they need to do to work and win as a team. Wilson makes Kelvin the damn near perfect coach. And much like everyone else in this movie, I think Wilson has a future in the movie world if he decides to keep taking parts. He’s funny, he has gravitas, and he exudes warmth. That stuff is important.

Call Sign Romeo is a well-made family movie and inspirational sports drama. It has some rough edges, sure, and would be helped by a faster pace, but it features some nice performances from actors making their first movie. If you’re in the mood for a good movie with a message, give Call Sign Romeo a chance. It’s worth your time.

See Call Sign Romeo. See it, see it, see it. Call Sign Romeo is set to hit all digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms starting on July 4th, 2023.

Image Credit: CSR Productions

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: None.

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Stuff about the U.S. Naval Academy, pull ups, handstand pushups, motorcycle hooey, snoring in class, a lack of respect for school, high school wrestling team hooey, complaining, airplane flying practice, garage training, ball busting, a special folder, some macho jock asshole bullshit, attempted mentorship, an argument about Army vs. Navy, unsportsmanlike conduct, a real lack of listening, more ball busting, serious bullying, kissing under the bridge, a really lame muscles joke, multiple headbutts, a motorcycle accident, a potential concussion, a Navy SEAL full on ass kicking, a girlfriend argument, more weight lifting, a full on brawl, a gigantic face bruise, attempted soda gift, off screen attempted suicide, an inspirational coach speech on a school bus, red and green, multiple bloody noses, more not listening, a big win, and an expected ending.

Kim Richards? Attempted off screen.

Gratuitous:U.S. naval Academy stuff, an annoying alarm clock, “Inspired by actual events,” Romeo, high school wrestling hooey. Taking a knee, multiple inspirational coach speeches, “you can’t give yourself a call sign nickname, it has to be given to you by others,” badass blues on the soundtrack, a character attacks pro wrestling for no good goddamn reason, macho jock asshole bullshit, people sitting around a fire at night, a workout montage where someone is upset the whole time, a banana split, not listening, military philosophy bullshit, beach jogging, barfing, weird country music on the car radio, some macho jock asshole stuff about life not being fair, a letter opener, bullshit about how flying is great for the soul and whatnot, a Top Gun homage, a sweatshirt that says “These Days” on it, kids saying “shrink” when referring to a therapist, inspirational dog tags, “All right, Chris, you’ve got this,” tour of a flight museum, and an expected ending.

Best lines: “Slow down, Chris. Don’t speed,” “You’re the best and everyone knows it,” “Run first, then practice,” “Believing in yourself is fine, but you’ve got to start being a team player. No one is the full package,” “When I signed up for this I didn’t think there would be so much running,” “Pick it up, nature boy!,” “Stow it, Torres! Or does the state championship mean so little to you?,” “You’re right. Practice does make perfect,” “Must be a night time run to the bombing range,” “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here,” “Watch out. Hulk smash,” “Just like last year, huh?,” “What just happened?,” “Carla hates being called a lady,” “Hey, Damian, is this your first time touching a girl?,” “What are you staring at? This ain’t drama club!,” “Keep it legal,” “Stay hydrated. Stay focused,” “So now you want to fly jets and wrestle for Uncle Sam?,” “Say goodnight, high school,” “You know, swimming is totally a Navy thing,” “For what it’s worth I think you’d look good in green,” “One of the best parts about not being in high school is not having to hear about high school,” “I hate cherry,” “Safe weight stations? Don’t ask,” “Chris Torres? Nervous? I thought I’d never see that day,” “You ready to go kick some ass, kid?,” “All right, Chris, you’ve got this,” and “Thanks, Paul. Call me Digger.”

The final score: review Good
The 411
Call Sign Romeo, directed by Raymond Wallace, is a sort of coming of age youth drama and inspirational sports drama rolled into one. Inspired by real life events (that’s what the credits claim). The movie has a few pacing issues (the movie is about ten minutes too long), but the movie has some fine performances in it and, for the most part, is an entertaining movie for all ages (it really doesn’t deserve its PG-13 rating). The movie also has a nice message about never giving up and working as a team to achieve a goal. The world needs to be reminded of that sometimes. If you’re in the mood for that kind of movie, Call Sign Romeo is worth checking out. See it, see it, see it. Call Sign Romeo is set to hit all digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms starting on July 4th, 2023,