(The ARCANUM feature is my attempt to present some of my older write-ups to newer Good and Most Beloved and Precious Readers)
SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS is a real slow burner (with lots of slo-mo-to-gospel-rock scenes!!!). Don’t expect a lot of action or cats in the cupboard scares, just a good, solid movie with lots of tacit things going on that aren’t straight up pointed out to you. I present it here, remastered in HD with some pictures that weren’t found on the original. I hope you enjoy!
The barely recognizable Peter Stormare stars as a balding, overweight, small Canadian town sheriff turning his life around through Jesus while haunted by feelings for his ex girlfriend who is now the partner of the prime suspect of the only murder ever in this Mennonite city. That was my summary, here’s the IMDB blurb: “A modern, gothic tale of crime and redemption about an aging police officer from a small Ontario Mennonite town who hides a violent past until a local murder upsets the calm of his newly reformed life.” I thought this movie was very well done, even though the ending left me a little unfulfilled. I felt that all of the actors did really good, I liked the script and the dialogue, the cinematography was super sharp and, while I never care or even pay attention to, the soundtrack of, I don’t know, Rock-Blues-Gospel was actually very good and used extremely well, to me. Also – I am a slo-mo type of guy, and apparently the director is too because there’s tons of it. Something that adds to making a movie enjoyable for me are little things like this: after the Provincial Police interrogate the two subjects in the dumpy, city police station, they pour some coffee and gripe “you need some spoons here… or some straws… for stirring!” and get back to what they were talking about. Later, they have spoons in their coffee, but it’s not pointed out or talked about, it’s just there. Nice touch! The only things I didn’t really care for here were: Martha Plimpton’s character was too naively annoying to be believed (at one point, discussing the murder victim, she is more upset that the victim’s underwear was around her ankles than the fact that there was a murdered woman by the lake) and the unsatisfying ending that I wish would have gone a different way.
By the way, this is found in the “Thriller” category, but it is more of a character driven drama about Stormare and his struggles – with a mysterious dead woman as the catalyst for his troubles – and some wicked slo-mo shots with a killer soundtrack.
There’s a back story that’s alluded to in flashbacks: Stormare beat the shit out of some biker (I think) in front of his then live-in girlfriend (Rita) which seems to be the cause of their breaking up and his need for absolution and change. We start off with the sheriff getting baptized and declaring his love for Jesus and then they set up the “mundanity” of life in town, including a scene where Stormare is giving a ticket to a tough named Steve – with whom he seems to have some sort of “history” (Steve is now living with Rita). Dour faced and gloomy, Stormare – or Walter – heads home to his new live in girlfriend, Plimpton, who is quite irritating in her childlike belief system and scratchy accent. Soon enough, a mostly naked body is found at the local Mennonite watering pond and the provincial cops are called in, since there has never been a murder here before.
Again, I think all of these actors did a really good job with their roles, especially the way they interacted with each other several times when going over the case. Back to the story – the 911 call of someone finding the body turns out to be Walter’s ex Rita and her trashy boyfriend Steve is the primary suspect. Interrogations ensue, leads are tracked down and there is a pretty cool scene at a strip club all while Walter struggles with what is the main theme here, to me – he knows Steve killed the girl and he still has deep, deep feelings for Rita, who hates him, and he just doesn’t want her to get in trouble. His passion and anger seethe and seethe and seethe and he keeps it down, down, down until we get to the unspectacular end which was kind of a shame because I thought this movie was going along very well. Oh well – I totally would watch this again.