Stars – Mackenzie Davis, Jeremy Allen White, Logan Hoffman, Mark Pellegrino, William Devane
Directors – Simon Hawkins, Zeke Hawkins
Released by Anchor bay
Reviewed by Steven Ruskin
In the second scene of the film we get a very cool quote from the cult crime author Jim Thomson. A boy and girl are having breakfast and shooting the breeze over biscuits and coffee. They are about to get out of the one horse town they grew up in and head off to college. This is apparently a rare occurrence there. The cute short haired girl Sue (Mackenzie Davis) is a voracious reader of mystery novels. She tells Bobby (Jeremy Allen White) that Jim Thompson wrote that there are thirty-two ways to tell a story but only one plot: Things are not what they seem. He is impressed and retorts with a rumination over whether biscuits and gravy shouldn’t be called a biscuit and gravy. Should it be bacon and an egg? It’s a great scene that sets them up as intellectual equals and also shows a clear attraction between them.
The first scene shows Sue’s boyfriend robbing his boss’ safe. B. J. (Logan Hoffman) tells Bobby it was so easy since the guy uses the same number for everything. The boyfriend takes Bobby and Sue out to celebrate their leaving. It’s party time for his best friend and his best girl. They drink and go swimming at a hotel. B.J. offers a girl at the bar five hundred then over fifteen hundred dollars in cash to blow his friend. Both Bobby and the girl turn him down. We can see that Sue is getting tired of him. Cute as he it, he is just not enough for her. They are moving on and he is clearly clinging and unable to deal with the perceived desertion.
When B.J. and Bobby get to work, the boss Giff (Mark Pellegrino) has discovered he has been robbed and is taking it out on a Mexican who works for him. He is kicking the man to death. Bobby intervenes saying he took the money but Giff shoots the man anyway. With a pistol to their heads the boys admit that they and Sue spent the money so Giff reasons they can help get the money back. He sets them up to rob a big mob money laundering drop at a local farm equipment office. Giff is in debt to the area mob kingpin Big Red (William Devane) so he figures he can square his own money and stick it to the guy at the same time. Dutch Southern’s script twists that set up around nicely. He initially uses Giff’s greed and simple mindedness to lay out the plan. B.J.’s jealously and growing suspicions over Bobby and Sue give it another turn. Giff puts the screws to Bobby and Sue in a particularly vicious scene to make sure they do not get cold feet. All through this we remember Sue’s comment from Jim Thompson that things are not what they seem.
Echoes of the films At Close Range, Blood Simple and even Near Dark run through this rural crime drama set in the windy and empty landscapes of Texas. The film has a decidedly dark hue to it. There is a crushing sense of impeding doom that rides all through the second half of the movie. While the look at the film and desolate setting works in its favor what really sells this is the believable relationships that are set up between the characters. The four leads nail their roles down tight. Each one is at the emotionally fraying point. We do not get a great deal of back story to anyone of them. The narrative wisely keeps its focus on the tightening grip of the few days in which the story takes places. Mackenzie Davis does a splendid job here. There is a wall to ceiling shelf in her tiny room that is crammed with paperback mystery novels. It would have been nice to get a closer glance at some of the titles. At one point B. J. is so infuriated with Sue that he looks about to strike her. Instead he locks eyes with her and randomly pulls some books off the shelf letting them tumble to the floor. William Devane is effective in a cameo. Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Dexter) plays Giff with such confident stupidity. He is a dangerous and violent threat. When we see him actually trying to think things out in front of us it is scary. The original title was, We Gotta Get Out of This Place. Once things get going Bobby and Sue have plenty of excuses to just run for their lives – but they don’t. It’s that kind of picture. The characters in these Noir-ish stories must walk their own roads all the way to end. While not quite on a par with the work that so obviously inspired it Bad Turn Worse is a solid little thriller.
Video – 2.35:1
The film looks perfectly fine. All the compositions are good. Depth of field is fine. Black levels are solid. My only rankle is that currently popular favoring of a desaturated look. Colors appears drained at times. This is on purpose and while it certainly fits the mood of the film it would have been nice to see what the talented camerawork of Jeff Bierman could have done with a bit more of a palate.
Audio – Dolby Digital 5.1 with subtitles offered in English SDH and Spanish
All dialogue is clear. The music is effectively supportive.
Extras – None
On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:
DVD – Excellent
Movie – Good / Excellent