Thursday, March 22, 2018

SWEET VIRGINIA (2017) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Shout! Factory / IFC Midnight
Release Date: April 3rd 2018
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0, Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 

Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Jamie M. Dagg
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Christopher Abbott, Imogen Poots, 
Rosemarie Dewitt

Brooding small town thriller Sweet Virginia (2017) opens with a drifter named Elwood (Christopher Abbott, Girls) walking into a bar after hours, inside three men are gathered, Elwood acts strangely and is turned away, returning moments later with a gun, killing all three men inside. We learn that Elwood was hired by the wife of one of the men inside to kill him, a woman named Lila (Imogen Poots, 28 Weeks Later), but things didn't go as planned and the killer ends up with two unintended victims, rocking the small community. Later when the self-made widow is informed by her lawyer that her husband was on the verge of bankruptcy, her lack of funds to pay the hit-man sets in motion a series of unfortunate events. 

Central to the story is a depressive motel owner named Sam (Jon Bernthal, Netflix'a The Punisher) who has connections to Poots' character, he's having an affair with her mother Bernadette (Rosemarie Dewitt, Poltergeist), who's husband was one of the unintended casualties at the bar. The dots begin to connect when Elwood who is staying at the motel run by Sam recognizes him as a former rodeo champion from West Virginia, and Elwood sort of forces an uneasy acquaintance with the motel owner, and so the dots begin to connect, slowly building towards an inevitable violent climax that will leave few unscathed.

This slow-burning thriller caught my attention from the get-go with the crime at he bar, it grabs the attention, and then things settle down and it begin to unfold and build-up in a subtle sort of way, you can see the machination at work, the intertwined characters  begin to mingle and cross-pollinate, culminating with the expected violent outcome, there's no surprised here but I liked the contrast of the characters of Sam and Elwood. Bernthal as Sam is a surprisingly quiet guy, very meek and downplayed, we see him cower away from the threat violence an earlier scene, in contrast to the high-strung Elwood, a man with a short fuse who is always holding back the inner-rage, which is threatening to boil over at any moment. We see him set off by a pair of locals punks giving him the eye at a phone booth, or when he realizes Lila is coming up short of his required fee for the crime. 

I love this sort of quiet small town thriller, watching the pieces come together in the final push at the end, but I didn't find this one to be all that satisfying, the tense finale was a bit too anti-climatic for my tastes, there's a pressure build-up and then it just sort of deflated without the appropriate fanfare, it's not bad but it is a one and done. 

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