Marking an incredible debut feature from Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, First Date delivers a perfect combination of romance, humor, and thrills. 

Mike finally has a chance to take the girl of his dreams on a date – if only he can get there. First Date is a hybrid romantic action thriller that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s a one-night-only wild ride through the underbelly of suburban America where anything is possible, and almost nothing is what it seems.

Mike (Tyson Brown) is a nerdy, self-conscious teenager with a crush on Kelsey (Shelby Duclos), a girl from his neighborhood. After his friend convinces him to take a chance, Mike gets a date, but soon realizes he has one problem – he doesn’t have a car. One awkward interaction with a mysterious man from the internet later, Mike finds himself in possession of a 1965 Chrysler New Yorker that is well past its glory days. As he leaves to meet his dream girl, Mike soon begins to realize that he’s inadvertently entered a world of crime, deception, and violence that will turn his simple night upside down several times over before he even gets to Kelsey’s door.

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Drawing influence from early 90s films made by Miramax, specifically Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino’s work, First Date is a throwback to the unpredictable and lawless world of indie filmmaking that doesn’t seem to exist in 2021. The Writing/Directing team of Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp use their debut feature to explore big ideas on a shoestring budget in a surreal scenario utilizing a cast of mostly unknown actors who fully commit to their parts. The characters wax poetic about VHS tapes and the enduring influence of Nicolas Cage in between arguments about responsibility and novellas. There are multiple run-ins with the law, shoot-outs, and increasingly weird encounters with strangers that somehow coalesce into a sprawling, franticly-paced, dizzyingly-fun adventure that audiences won’t soon forget.

The overstuffed plot only works because of the strength of the film’s cast. The ensemble, which includes more than twenty speaking parts and at least a dozen essential characters, is stacked with promising talent whose conviction holds everything together as the night unfurls. Brown and Duclos, both newcomers to feature films, convey the perfect combination of fascination and frustration at the chaos surrounding them. Additionally, the rag-tag group of comically argumentative villains, including a standout performance from Leah Finity, are delightful.

Knowing how much that First Date gets right, one can only imagine what the filmmakers could accomplish with a bigger budget. The only instances where the film feels as rough and tumble as its story lies in the technical details. There are moments when the lighting is too harsh, and others where the dialogue is a little too low in the mix. Still, by and large, this is the kind of unwieldy movie that audiences eat up that studios – for reasons that one must assume are strictly financial – seem afraid to produce without an A-list cast.

First Date reminds us the great movies start with great plots and that star power can never replicate the feeling you get with genuinely great and original storytelling. Crosby and Knapp deliver a film that we will be discussing throughout 2021 and beyond. It marks a career-making moment not only for the filmmakers but the lead cast as well. Tyson Brown is captivating in the lead role, and the surprisingly Complex and villainous performance from Jesse Janzen equally excellent. There are so many little moments in this film the viewers will love that we cannot discuss without giving away key points to the plot, but suffice to say, every detour is worthwhile. There are more than enough twists and turns to go around, and everyone gets their moment to shine. The fact that they all pull it off is nothing short of a miracle, and I cannot wait to witness it again.