Cut Bank (2015)

24 Apr

“Hi! Welcome to Cut Bank, Montana – where the Rockies meet the plains!” exclaims Cassandra (Teresa Palmer) as she rehearses for her Miss Cut Bank Pageant trial video. The town, nicknamed “The coldest spot in the nation” has all the makings of your typical small town. There’s the local hermit Derby Milton (Michael Stuhlbarg), Sheriff Vogel (John Malkovich), who heads the local law enforcement, Big Stan (Billy Bob Thornton), and Georgie Wits (Bruce Dern) the neighborhood mailman. Dwayne, (Liam Hemsworth) our protagonist, dreams of leaving the sleepy town in favor of moving to Butte, or maybe even California. He gets his big break when he stumbles across a murder (Cut Bank’s first on record), and has the chance to exchange evidence of the crime for a large sum of money. This particular murder may or may not be connected with a larger conspiracy however, and Dwayne soon learns that some of Cut Bank’s inhabitants aren’t as friendly as they appear.

Directed by Mark Shakman, Cut Bank has major ambition to being a grade-A crime thriller. The main issue here is with its execution. While the pulpy story overflows with Coen-style writing tropes, the script unfortunately is sub-par and riddled with plot holes. Though it boasts an ensemble cast most of the performances here are passable and borderline campy. And yet despite its flaws, Cut Bank somehow makes for some engaging and immersive viewing.  Though it relies heavily on delivered exposition, the story still manages to be unpredictable, and at times genuinely suspenseful.  Shakman clearly knows what genre he is in, and he plays to the plot’s strengths.  If we were to go back to the TV days before The Wire, then Cut Bank would play out like one of the best dramatic episodes of all time. But this is 2015, and while surely not an innovator in the crime genre, Cut Bank is still a very solid, entertaining, and worthwhile experience.

Bottom Line: Cut Bank is saturated with pulp and borderline camp at times, but yet most importantly, it brings enough thrills to be satisfying.

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: Fargo (1996) + The Counsellor (2013) 


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