Now Streaming - Small Town Crime (2018) - Reviewed

John Hawkes; one of the greatest character actors working today, returns to the Neo-Noir genre in Small Town Crime.  Confidently directed by the Nelms brothers and featuring an outstanding ensemble, this is one of the year's first pleasant surprises.  A deceptively simple plot outlines a pitch perfect homage to detectives and the dark places their mysteries take them.  

Kendall, an alcoholic ex-cop finds a badly injured woman on the side of the road after a forgotten night of revelry.  His decision to bring those responsible to justice not only puts his family in harm’s way, it forces him to confront a lifetime of bad choices in order to hope for a better tomorrow.  The Nelms' script is a tonally anomaly, shifting from long bouts of dark comedy to shocking violence at the drop of a hat, then reversing into a redemptive character study before the bodies are cold. Homages to various films are aplenty and lovers of dingy potboilers will find many delights, including an enigmatic pair of hitmen that would be the perfect addition to Tarantino’s bloody universe.    

Hawkes continues to be a formidable talent, taking his bruised character through emotional turbulence, hilarious acts of cowardice, and genuine scenes of humanity.  He is supported by an unbelievable cast.  Octavia Spencer and Anthony Anderson star are his loving, but concerned adopted family members, while the legendary Robert Forster plays the same Forster character we've come to love.  However, it is Clifton Collins Jr. who steals the limelight as Mood, an unusually refined pimp whose involvement in the investigation takes an unexpectedly charming turn.  

Johnny Derango's stalwart cinematography captures the intimate tale with muted grays and browns, producing images that are not only expected, but perfectly welcome in this world of death and sexual corruption.  However, these images are contrasted against the brilliance of life whenever the story treads into more cosmopolitan and suburban environs, simulating the conflict within Hawke's flawed, yet strangely honorable protagonist.  This is Small Town's endearing heart.  Despite the bleakness and the violence, there's a distinct rebellion against the darkness that pervades everything, setting it apart from other noir films.  Kendall's journey towards absolution is not only fun, its natural and the finale's realistic approach to forgiveness is remarkable.  

Now available for digital streaming, Small Town Crime is an outstanding film to start the new year on.  Fans of Pulp Fiction, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, and other classic crime thrillers will find themselves right at home on the unforgiving streets of small town America.  However, they'll also find a silver lining that asks us to remember that no one is ever truly down for the count.  


--Kyle Jonathan