Cinematic Releases: The Scent of Rain and Lightning (2017) - Reviewed

From small town saloons to cattle grazing fields to the rustic back roads of the west, The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a reminder of how its done. 

The thriller is definitely making a comeback. With recent movies like Blue Ruin and Cold in July giving viewers a cold dose of modern realism transposed to the screen, director Blake Robbins now offers a stunning bit of mystery based Americana that brings the Nancy Pickard novel to life. Fans of the book will most likely love this version. How could they not?

With an artistic lens that's definitely reminiscent of his previous work, The Sublime and Beautiful, Robbins' sense for visually effective scenery and morally ambiguous characters hits a high note with this latest film. Instead of resting on the greatness of his last feature, Robbins sets his sights even higher and creates one of the best character studies of 2017. His Scent of Rain and Lightning uses a dusty Western vibe that pits the talents of Maika Monroe against a bevy of gun wielding support players that may have been involved in the murder of both her parents (Grace and Chatwin). 

As his second full length feature, Robbins strikes a chord that will resonate with a wide audience. Blending the thriller genre with crime drama and old school bits of the cattle rancher dynasty sagas, the stage is set for a movie that amalgamates many themes and emotions. Instead of falling back on a standard narrative, Scent bounces between the present and the past, making this an interesting watch that gives us just enough back story for each key character. Using a stellar cast including the always amazing Monroe, an erotically charged Maggie Grace, a refined Justin Chatwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Mark Webber, and (my favorite) Will Patton, this adaptation is a callback of sorts. The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a steadied reminder of how we used to do things. Thrillers used to be this good. And Robbins may just be bringing them back. 

No. I refuse to tip that cow. 

Considering Robbins long running career as a television and film actor, his control as a director is apparent here. He uses his decades of experience as an anchor and draws emotionally captivating performances from everyone involved. His presentation of story is calm and collected. It's played like he wants the viewer to understand exactly what is going on at all times and never loses focus of the story at hand. In less capable hands, this type of movie might become confusing. With smart editing, controlled pacing, and awesome shots of the countryside, the movie pulls you in and doesn't let you go until the whodunit is solved. Even then, you're left with a harsh taste of reality. 

Being a fan of old school thrillers, I really can't suggest this movie highly enough. See it.