If you wrap your car around a tree I’m not going to feel guilty!
Directors : Eshom and Ian Nelms
Cast : John Hawkes, Anthony Anderson, Octavia Spencer and Robert Forster.
The trailer for this John Hawkes lead movie popped up on my Youtube feed a few weeks ago and it reminded me a bit of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”, which at the time was my favourite film of the year so far (although replaced today by another film) and I was excited by it.
Anyway, I anticipated it would remain on my “to watch” list for many years and effectively gather the internet equivalent of dust (much like a lot of the rest of said list) but then on Sunday afternoon, whilst scanning Netflix before waiting for my new favourite film of the year at the cinema, there it was. Straight away it was on the Netflix list to watch when I got home. Now I’m home, so here comes a review. Simple really.
I’m not sure what to expect from this as Hawkes is often just a supporting player and I’ve never seen him in a leading role, so here is hoping that he gets takes the chance with both hands and produces something stellar. We’ll see.
Mike (Hawkes) is a self-destructive alcoholic who got fired from his job as a cop. One day he finds a heavily beaten women on the roadside and takes her to the nearest hospital, despite this she dies the next day. He still has her phone in his car and the next evening it rings and the voice demands to speak to her, Mike’s adopted siblings Kelly (Spencer) and Teddy (Anderson) are convinced the voice is the killer. After finding out her name he decides to try and discover the killer himself, promoting himself as a private investigator to the girl’s parents.
It turns out that the girl was a prostitute and another soon turns up dead. Mike’s questions and investigations start getting noticed by the wrong people and one day he starts getting followed by a mysterious car. Mike manages to lose them but the occupants still find their way to his house. It isn’t long before Mike soon finds himself on the hit list of those taking out the prostitutes.
Can he figure out what is going on and save more lives before he is taken out himself.
So is it like “Three Billboards” and is John Hawkes a good lead.
I’ll get more onto “Three Billboards” later on during this so in my first paragraph I’ll focus on John Hawkes. I like him as an actor, he has easy-going way in his acting and this makes him an enjoyable presence on screen. This character suits him down to a tee and could be his defining role as a lead, which is saying something given that he is nearly 60 (which by the way surprised me when I saw that, he looks great for someone of that age).
Anyway, the film doesn’t mess about introducing exactly how self-destructive Mike really is, including getting offered a job during the interview, only to then mention he is an alcoholic and the offer being rescinded. Had he not said anything he would have the job. He is very much the anti-hero type and the way the other cops talk about him to his face says it all, even going as far as suspecting he hit the girl that he found, even though his career shows no evidence of this.
I think that is why “Small Town Crimes” works for the most-part, Mike is a flawed, but somewhat likeable character. He’s the type of guy who you would know would try his hardest for you, but you would have very little faith in him actually getting things done. That makes him compelling as he is a flawed human being and he knows that he has a problem, far too many other characters in similar films lack that. For example, I keep mentioning “Three Billboards” during this review and one of the characters in that is called Dixon, played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell. Dixon is another flawed characters but he doesn’t seem to realise it, which makes him very entertaining to watch, but that assured nature means that as the film goes on you never doubt he will achieve what he wants, making it slightly (and I can’t stress slightly) less compelling watching him.
There are some moments that are genuinely amusing in a dark-comedy way, such as being about to head into a potentially deadly meeting and the person Mike is relying on turns up in a hot pink car that bounces up and down. A few minutes later is a conversation between the girl’s pimp and her grandfather, in which the latter questions how he could do something like that to a girl, but the pimp says that unlike her family, he took her in and gave her a home, and maybe if they had looked after her in a way a family should do then she might never have needed him. It is just something that you wouldn’t expect because it does get you thinking
However, all of that being said, I am not sure at this stage whether I will give it the approved stamp down the page. The story is fairly solid and there is an air of mystery, but it isn’t overly engaging. I’ve been able to phase in and out fairly easily.
As time goes and the antagonists are introduced properly, this did help get my interest going again and the pair do feel genuinely threatening, which is very unusual. When they start saying that they’re going to gut Mike’s nephew and neice, you actually believe that not only are they willing, but they are more than willing. It is unusual to have antagonists that I believe, but this is a rare occasion of it happening.
The film is decent enough and the current IMDB rating of 6.6/10 seems about right. It’s not bad, not by any stretch, but there is just something missing here and there.
After debating with it I have decided not to give this the approval stamp. I’m not sure whether it is simply because I went in with high expectations, but for me it was simply lacking something that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s not bad, not by any stretch of the imagination.
The current score on IMDB is about right and it be fair the film is watchable and at just 92 minutes it definitely doesn’t outstay its welcome.