US / 92 minutes / color with some bw / 6 Foot, Avva, John J. Kelly Entertainment, Saban Dir & Scr: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms Pr: Parisa Caviani, Brad Johnson, John J. Kelly Cine: Johnny Derango Cast: John Hawkes, Anthony Anderson, Octavia Spencer, Robert Forster, Clifton Collins Jr., Jeremy Ratchford, James Lafferty, Michael Vartan, Daniel Sunjata, Don Harvey, Stefanie Scott, Caity Lotz, Dale Dickey, Michelle Lang, Michael Flynn, Katie Cockrell, Stefania Barr.
Somewhere in Utah, Mike Kendall (Hawkes), kicked out of the PD because of his drunkenness, survives on unemployment checks and the charity of his adoptive sister Kelly Banks (Spencer) and her husband Teddy (Anderson). Driving one day on a remote road, he discovers the dumped body of a dying woman, Kristy (Barr). When later she dies in hospital he decides to don the mantle of a PI to find her killer.
John Hawkes as Mike Kendall.
The trail leads him to the club/hooker ring run by Randy (Don Harvey) and thence to Mood (Collins), the pimp whose hookers Kristy, Rose (Cockrell) and Ivy (Scott) partook in a “birthday party” for three rich dudes. Now a couple of killers—Orthopedic (Ratchford) and Tony Lama (Lafferty)—are in town to eliminate the hookers in reprisal for an ill advised blackmail attempt. Sidekicked by Mood and Kristy’s stodgy-seeming grandfather, Steve Yendel (Forster), Mike prepares to fight back . . .
Jeremy Ratchford as Orthopedic and James Lafferty as Tony Lama.
Robert Forster as Steve Yendel.
The opening credits—scrolling to the sound of Eric Burdon singing “Good Times”—tell us this a Nelms Brothers film, which immediately alerts us to the fact the movie could be, so to speak, a Coen Brothers riff. And, sure enough, there’s that characteristic mix of quirkiness, dark humor, humanity and cold-blooded violence that the Coens do so well.
Stefanie Scott as Ivy and Don Harvey as Randy.
As, we discover, so do the Nelms Brothers, in this very creditable piece of small-town noir. Octavia Spencer, a site favorite, faces no great demands here, alas, but Forster, Anderson and Collins offer John Hawkes splendid support, as does Stefanie Scott in her smaller role. Jeremy Ratchford shines as the bonhomie-laced psycho. Even so, it’s Hawkes’s movie, as the runtish Mike swaggers from one crisis to the next, eliciting our admiration despite all his manifest flaws.
Anthony Anderson and Octavia Spencer as Teddy and Kelly Banks.
The screenplay zips along and the performances and direction are spot-on. Lacking the portentousness—and quite a fraction of the running time—of the same year’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), this actually stacks up quite well against its more celebrated peer. I’m surprised it hasn’t picked up a few awards.
Clifton Collins Jr as Mood.