A Single Shot (R)

Drama 116 September 20, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
If the movies have taught us anything, it's this: Don't expect an easy time of hanging on to satchels of cash you find in the woods. David M. Rosenthal's sturdy, nasty rural noir, based on Matthew F. Jones's novel, is so sharp and rusted through that after taking it in you'll likely need a tetanus shot. After he accidentally shoots and kills a woman while hunting in the forest near his trailer home, abandoned family man John Moon (Sam Rockwell) happens upon a gun, a note, and a retirement fund's worth of stacked C-notes. Complications ensue, of course, especially after John sends some cash to the wife who wants nothing to do with him anymore. (She's played by Kelly Reilly, who is given little to work with.) He gets phone threats; his friends, mostly bearded roughnecks, behave like maybe they know something; and the score, Atli …Övarsson's, is all disintegrating strings-- clearly, this will get ugly. It does, suspensefully, the film grim, well-executed, and appealingly humble in its ambitions. The drama is mostly simple, elemental even: The inevitable rolls in like a storm. As one of those pals who may be scheming against John, Jeffrey Wright chews into plum monologues about guys "bleeding like Jesus stuck on the cross"-- his voice grinds like the gearbox of a '68 Impala. There's no real reason to root for John save Rockwell's compelling, strong-man-scared performance, and maybe the fact that he's the least cruel and dumb of the men we meet. A caveat, for all these grim pleasures: The women here are strictly to be pined for, ogled, or murdered to make a point.
David M. Rosenthal Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Reilly, Joe Anderson, Ted Levine, Ophelia Lovibond, Amy Sloan, W. Earl Brown Matthew F. Jones Chris Coen, Aaron L. Gilbert, Keith Kjarval, Jeff Rice Single Shot Productions

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