Some people may wonder why “What Doesn’t Kill You” didn’t receive a proper theatrical release, and to be completely honest, it all comes down to luck. Over the last few years, there have been a number of gritty crime dramas released in the same vein as Brian Goodman’s directorial debut, and though a majority of them weren’t any better or worse, they had the good fortune of being made first. That’s really the only thing standing in the way of the film, a based-on-a-true-story tale about two lifelong friends (Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke) making a living as soldiers for the local crime boss in Boston. When a job gone wrong lands the pair in prison, however, one struggles to make the most of his second chance under the haze of drugs and money.

If there’s one thing going for “What Doesn’t Kill You” that some of the other likeminded films didn’t have, it’s a strong performance from its lead actor. Mark Ruffalo has been on the brink of breaking out for what seems like a decade now, and yet he continues to hammer away with quality roles where he really gets to flex his dramatic muscle. Ethan Hawke isn’t quite as memorable in what could easily be viewed as a copycat of his character in 2007’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” but he still does his best work in films destined for the festival circuit. Unfortunately, though “What Doesn’t Kill You” may claim to be based on a true story, it’s simply too far-fetched to be believed. Goodman should have had the good sense to ignore that aspect of the tale and just focus on crafting a movie that we haven’t already seen countless times before. Maybe then it would have never gotten lost in the shuffle.

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