John Hawkes Leads Stellar Ensemble In Old School Crime Caper
Hapless drunk and ex-cop Mike Kendall (John Hawkes) is actually a really great detective when he catches the scent of something that can shake him from his stupor. Writer/Director duo Ian and Eshom Nelms craft Small Town Crime exactly like that: one case in the life of Mike Kendall, former drunk cop, up and coming drunk private detective. Loaded to the brim with colorful and interesting characters that burst from the page to the screen in ways that most filmmakers could only dream of, this is absolutely a crime thriller that could sustain and would reward sequels.
Kendall is a fascinating detective played perfectly by full-on phenom John Hawkes. The Nelms Brothers never seem to be outright judging Kendall for his faults or playing up his drunkenness for laughs. There’s a tragic undertone to his wasted potential and the bridges he’s burned with his family and with the police force are always simmering right there beneath the surface. But the script smartly incorporates Kendall’s alcoholism into every facet of the story. It’s only because of a bender (and the company Mike keeps as he works his way through getting kicked out of every bar in town) that he stumbles upon a young woman on the side of the road, barely clinging to life, and then begins to piece together what happened to her. In an thrilling case of “fake it ‘till you make it”, Mike takes on the case of finding out what happened to this young woman regardless of the fact that he’s lying through his teeth about being a private eye, and even further pissing off his former peers on the police department who heap scorn upon him for a death on the force which occurred while Mike was intoxicated on the job.
Despite all his shortcomings and deception (indeed, perhaps because of those things), it turns out that Mike is the perfect man for this job, and he pursues every lead with a dogged determination that belies an inherent goodness beneath his broken exterior. It’s enough to convince the young woman’s grandfather (Robert Forster) to pay Kendall for the job, and even ride along as a trigger man when needed. With Octavia Spencer playing Mike’s sister (he’s adopted), Anthony Anderson playing his best friend and brother-in-law, Clifton Collins, Jr as iconic pimp Mood, and some lesser known actors stepping up and making the most out of every single lowlife, hitman, and barfly in town, it’s clear that The Nelms Brothers have the goods, and that this “small town” could easily sustain a series.
A highlight of the SXSW 2017 film festival, Small Town Crime thrived upon a revisit, broken out from a week’s worth of constant screenings. In fact, the painful moments hit harder, the comedy cracked wiser, character beats and authenticity rang truer, and the complete and total badassery of the hard boiled mystery and action elements clicked together so flawlessly on round two that Small Town Crime might very well be a sleeper contender for one of the best crime films of the year. Feeling ripped right out of a Coen Brothers opus, but with a scrappiness long abandoned by the Coens themselves, Small Town Crime demands attention from the widest audience possible.
Absolutely loaded to the gills, this is an insanely stacked home video release. There’s an unbelievable THREE commentary tracks (Directors’, Actor/Producer/Directors’, & Technical). Add deleted and extended scenes, as well as a couple of solid little featurettes, and you’ve got a Blu-ray release quite worthy of the gem of a film it’s touting. I don’t really know how people discover smaller films like this one anymore (I guess DirecTV, who appear to be distributors on this). It played theaters very briefly, and hit home video with little fanfare from Lionsgate. My hope is that Small Town Crime breaks out huge on VOD or some type of streaming service, and then people discover this remarkable disc. Yes, I want people to discover and acknowledge this awesome little film… but more selfishly I just want to see more adventures from The Nelms Brothers and John Hawkes’ Mike Kendall.
And I’m Out.
Small Town Crime is now available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.