Clearly, writer & director Fred Carpenter has a genuine gift for getting movies made, but "Jesse" looks terribly amateurish. Virtually every shot in this low-budget police revenge thriller appears claustrophobic, as if Carpenter lensed the action as tightly as possible to crop out non-actors from edging into the shots. Whoever pulled focus on "Jesse" should learn how to manipulate the focus. Some shots are done with zero artistry. Unmistakably, "Jesse" served as a paycheck for veteran character actors like William Forsythe, Armand Assante, and Eric Roberts. Stunt-woman-turned-actress Stephanie Finochio is cast as the eponymous heroine, Jessica Weinstein, a hot-tempered, tough-as-nails, Nassau County, New York Police detective. She guzzles liquor with the abandon of an alcoholic and takes cement naps on the sidewalk when she cannot stagger to her Ford. Since she divorced her fireman husband who gained custody of her son, she lives at home with her pot-smoking mother and her brother. Finochio epitomizes diamond in the rough as an actress with a background as a wrestler with BBA in Accounting / BA in Psychology and an M.A. in Education. This actress deserves better than "Jesse."
You can imagine what happens when the profane Finochio learns two her scumbag brother, Mitchell (Mitchell Walters), has died under mysterious circumstances. It seems Mitch got involved with a mafia loan shark and couldn't repay the thousands that he owed the mafia. The actors look like they improvised most of the dialogue in the predictable Fred Carpenter and Joanne Tamburro screenplay. The villains curse like the gritty Goombahs in a Scorsese crime movie. Carpenter must have seen those outstanding epic because "Jesse" looks like a cross-between of Scorsese and a "Dirty Harry" police procedural. The chief Mafia villain, ambitious Ralph (Anthony Trentacosta of "Just Like Joe"), imitates Al Capone in one scene when he throws a birthday party for a treacherous business associate who has been stealing from him and then smashes its head with a baseball bat. This is probably the best scene that Trentacosta has. Meantime, Jesse becomes a television news sensation when she walks into a convenience store that is in the process of being robbed by two thugs. Naturally, in the best Dirty Harry style, our heroine drops both robbers and the hostages go free. As it turns out, Ralph finds himself in knee deep trouble with Vince the Godfather (William Forsythe of "Once Upon a Time in America") who reprimands him. What Vince doesn't know is that Ralph is going behind his back and making unauthorized deals, specifically running narcotics. Jesse's Captain (Paul Vario of "The Blue Lizard") warns Vince what Ralph is planning to hit him. Ralph sends a man to rough up Jesse's mother (Tamara Markowitz), and this enrages Jesse. Once Vince learns what Ralph is up to, he contacts Jesse and informs on him.
The biggest surprise occurs when we learn that Mitchell isn't dead. Mitchell went and staged his own death and cut his foot off as evidence that he had died. When Jesse catches up with him, she forgets that he is her older brother and takes care of him. Aside from a dinner party at a residence, Carpenter looks like he shot everything on location, grabbing shots as he went. "Jesse" is all talk with sloppily staged action scenes. The convenience store robbery had potential, but Carpenter blew it with lackluster helming. Incidentally, tough guy actor Eric Roberts has only two scenes as a bartender. "Jesse" had some potential.