Friday, August 22, 2014

"32 Ways to Write A Story but only One Plot..."

By Russel D McLean

Nobody did small town noir like Jim Thompson. And that's something that screenwriter Dutch Southern and directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins are quick to remind us this dirty, messy and brilliantly atmospheric neo noir set in small town Texas.

Mystery nut Sue (she reads nearly everything from Thompson to Rex Stout and seems to have near perfect recall for every pulp on her shelf) is heading off for college with her boyfriend BJ's best friend, Bobby. BJ ain't too happy about this, despite his cheery, aw-shucks attitude, and what he does is arrange one final weekend for the trio funded by some money he got "by saving", or, as we know from the opening sequence, by stealing bundles of cash from a local hood. Of course none of this goes right and soon the hood knows who stole his money and what he does is get the trio to steal back the money from local gangster, Big Red.

The movie knows its roots. The story is nothing new - but then, as Thompson himself is quoted as saying, there are 32 ways to write a story but only one plot: nothing is as it seems - but what really counts here is atmosphere, and We Gotta Get Out of This Place has that in spades. The three young leads are spectacular. Their connection at the start is perfect, and the way things fall apart for them quickly becomes unsettlingly tense. This in particular evidenced by a woman in front of me at the cinema who was constantly ducking at every violent act. And while the film becomes a little rote towards the end (and perhaps ends with a slightly sunnier note than some noir fans might expect), its reminiscent in its energy of the Coen Brothers debut, Blood Simple. Except with a far more photogenic cast wit. The shots of Texas are spectacular, too, and those windfarms will stay in your mind a long time after you've left the cinema.

Its a shame movies like this get buried beneath the hype of larger movies with bigger budgets and less cohesiveness. I would much rather see more movies like this than a sequel to Olympus Has Fallen or yet another Adam Sandler comedy. Yes, the stakes are personal and relatively low, and no, its not a crowdpleaser - the violence and threats of violence will put many people off - but its solidly made, beautifully shot and absolutely absorbing. The more bad decisions these guys make the more you feel for them. In short, if its playing near you, and you like your noir and your neo-noir, you need to seek it out.

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