Coming Soon: Outlaw's Buckle


Brett Bentman's subtle mastery of Texas based neo-noir has been a fascinating journey to observe.  Beginning with his heartbreaking examination of child abuse in 90 Feet From Home before transitioning into the cowboy criminal underbelly with Copper Bill and The Rodeo Thief, Bentman has slowly woven an evocative web of mythology into his stories of rogues and killers.  His latest film, Outlaw's Buckle further enhances the bloodstained dogma of his design: An intimate chamber piece in which no one is what they appear to be.  

Combining a trio of solid performances, an outstanding script, and a unique visual approach, Bentman and his troupe create a dangerous ambiance around a pitch-black thriller in which criminal legends and petty thieves collide in real time. The setup is simple: An unusual deputy and a single prisoner get an unexpected visitor, another police officer who is transporting a dangerous mass murderer.  As a severe storm rages outside, loyalties are tested and blood is spilled. Bentman's script builds on his patented ability to present archetypes and then slowly evolve them through drama.  At the center is Thom Hallum's Rollins, a man who resents where he is and is looking for more.  Opposite is Rachel Whittle's Adams.  Where Rollins is restless, Adams is a hunter, harrowing the subject of her investigation at every turn.  There's a powerful sequence of dialogue in the second act between the two principals that not only highlights their unique perspectives, it is a showcase of how talented these performers are.  Rounding out the case is Andy Arrasmith's murderous Russell, the quarry.  While his part is mostly devoid of dialogue, his body language and presence are overwhelming in each of his scenes.  

Filmed not only during a pandemic but during the ice storm that heavily impacted Texas, the solitude of 2020 is everywhere within the film.  Long time coconspirator Anthony Gutierrez returns, using his gifted cinematography to evoke Assault on Precinct 13 vibes with deep shadows and ominous angles throughout.  The various reds and greens that flood the optics give the prison a haunted, otherworldly quality that only enhances the terror, made possible through Jeff Hamm's ethereal editing. This is a patient film.  While the plot may appear simplistic, it is the drama underneath the Texan veneer that is off import and it takes its time to approach it.  The verisimilitude of the American dream and those who feel betrayed by it is on display as greed and all its perils becomes the focus.  

The final surprise is in how Bentman continues to weave a tapestry of mythical criminals within neo-Texas underworld lore.  There are gods among men, ghosts that remain in the shadows, only surfacing when provoked and it is these mysterious personas that keep the material fresh and the viewer eager for more.  In the context of Outlaw's Buckle, the Outlaw himself and his coveted prize is another layer to an already superb story, hinting once again that Bentman may have bigger plans for his cinematic universe of killers and thieves. 

Coming soon, Outlaw's Buckle is a felonious triumph, merging story elements that Bentman and his crew have continued to refine over the last several years.  The yield is a nasty piece of noir that will delight any fan of the genre.  


--Kyle Jonathan