Superior performances are the hallmark of "Steel City," a moody, gritty, low-keyed drama set in the economically depressed area of the Upper Midwest. P.J. Lee (Tom Guiry) is a fitfully employed young man with an assortment of obstacles to overcome: his father's in jail on a vehicular manslaughter charge; his mom's re-married to a cop; his older brother's a philandering jerk whose wife walks out on him; and his girlfriend has a weight problem which makes P.J. reluctant to fully commit to her. He's also coping with the guilt of having been at least partially responsible for the fatal accident that his dad is claiming was all his fault.
Though most of the screen time is taken up with the travails that P.J. is facing and the growing up he is forced to do as a result, the movie's true emotional focus is on the lengths a largely absent father will go to in an effort to redeem himself in the eyes of his son - even if that means having to sacrifice his own freedom to bring that redemption about. As the film's writer and director, Brian Jun demonstrates a nice feel for the look and flavor of the movie's wintry locale and for the tempo and rhythm of the characters' lives.
"Steel City" is sure to get lost in the shuffle of bigger and grander independent and not-so-independent films out there, but the authentic performances - by Guiry, John Heard, Raymond J. Barry, Clayne Crawford, Laurie Metcalf ("Roseanne") and America Ferreira (virtually unrecognizable out of her Ugly Betty get-up) - and sturdy filmmaking make it a movie well worth checking out.