I walked into this film not really knowing anything about it, so I expected that it would probably be an urban-themed update of Death Wish. When I saw the Phase 4 Films logo, I lowered my expectations significantly, as Phase 4 has become infamous in some quarters for distributing backyard productions. The production values are actually a bit more raw and low-budget than their usual fare, but it sort of works for the gritty story. The film itself is more of a character study than an outright thriller. It's not exactly Taxi Driver, but it's got significantly more depth than I initially expected, especially once I saw the Phase 4 logo.
The camera work is a bit frenetic during the action scenes, and I think people who were expected bloody carnage may be a bit disappointed. There's more atmosphere -- a strong sense of approaching dread -- than there are scenes of vigilante justice. You can tell that Earl, the protagonist, is conflicted about his path, and the scenes of quiet, angry contemplation were fairly well done for a low budget film. Earl's girlfriend begins to tell him about her day, and he sits there in his car, stewing over a minor incident in which a teenager casually disrespects him. Eventually, Earl gets out of the car while his girlfriend is in mid-sentence, confronts the teenagers, and then tries to smooth things over with his girlfriend. It's obvious that he's going to have to make a decision about his lifestyle soon. Earl is an angry man, and you're never quite sure where his anger is going to lead him.
Earl is an interesting guy, and I was never bored. I'm not quite sure to whom I would recommend this film, however. What it lacks in exploitative violence, it makes up for in depth. I suppose, to some extent, you might compare it to John Sayles' work in low budget exploitation films, elevating them to higher levels. It's also got some elements of early Spike Lee or John Singleton urban dramas, and if you miss those, maybe you'll enjoy this.