By Philip Clarke
CALGARY – When alcoholic cop Mike Kendall (John Hawkes) is let go from the police force due to an incident involving the death of his partner, he inevitably hits rock bottom.
A year and a half goes by without him ever getting a new job. Mike learns that being branded as an “alcoholic cop-killer” tends to not bode well when trying to meet new people in any kind of social circle. Either way, Mike does what he can by going to interview after interview, but he never gets the job. The fact that he tells interviewers that he has a serious drinking problem, however, might have something to do with it.
In the meantime, Mike is busy collecting unemployment checks and using them at the bar to get wasted. If he’s numb to the pain, then the pain won’t hurt so badly. All his sister Kelly (Octavia Spencer) wants for him is to get sober. That and for him to get a job and pay her and her husband (Anthony Anderson) back all the money that he owes them.
Old habits die hard when John discovers an unconscious, bloody and bruised woman lying on the side of the highway. This inciting incident will take Mike down an insidious rabbit hole of sex and violence. What follows is an incredibly tense series of events that never lags or feel tiresome; the pacing is on point.
Small Town Crime is a lean, mean and expertly-made modern day film noir. Written and directed by Eshom and Ian Nelms, the film has all the elements of a classically made noir, but maintains a modern sensibility to it. A hard-edged private eye, femme fatales, and over-the-top gangsters are just a few of the wonderful ingredients thrown in. The film has a very balanced blend of gruesome violence and incredibly subtle pitch-black humour that takes the story over the edge to be exceptional.
While many elements of the film work incredibly well overall, the film rests squarely on Hawkes’ shoulders. As the broken, snarky and charming lead, Hawkes is purely magnetic from beginning to end. Mike is onscreen for almost every single scene in the film, and deservedly so. He’s so utterly compelling that you simply can’t take your eyes off him. You’re on his side throughout the length of the story.
Small Town Crime follows all the beats of your typical crime film, so nothing in the story is particularly shocking or surprising. That said, it’s still incredibly well made all the same. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. You just need to find an interesting way to spin it. That interesting spin is named John Hawkes.
Small Town Crime will be shown during the Calgary International Film Festival. For more info and times go to www.calgaryfilm.com/filmsMistery, Small Town Crime