SXSW 2017: Small Crimes
Evan Katz made a strong impression on the independent film scene with his 2014 dark comedy Cheap Thrills, about desperate people willing to do anything to alleviate their dire situations. His sophomore feature, Small Crimes, doesn't have that sinister comedic edge to it, but offers a similar predicament within its narrative, that's just as engrossing.
Ex-cop Joe Denton (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones) is finally out of jail after serving six years for attempted murder of a district attorney. He's set on straightening things out with his wife and young daughters who he hasn't seen since being incarcerated, but soon realizes that they, nor anyone in his town that he once relied on, want anything to do with him. While Joe desires a second chance at life, he first needs to sort out the mess he left behind all that time ago, causing him to venture back into the criminal underworld he so desperately wants to avoid.
Based on a script by Katz and co-writer Macon Blair (who also has a small role as a friend of Joe's), Small Crimes has an Elmore Leonard-like sensibility to it, focusing its plot around the seediest of individuals and those who are caught in the crossfire. It makes the audience remember that even in the most simple of towns, there's always trouble afoot, and here, Joe gets into a consequence-ladden predicament where he crosses paths with one too many unsavoury types. But even with this bleak backdrop, the film is quite riveting, in showing how a simple action in the past comes right back around to threaten the lives of so many people.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has played bit parts in many American films since finding stardom on his HBO hit, but none have featured him as much as Small Crimes does. It's great to see him play against type like this, and he really sells the role of this morally-corrupted character with everything to lose. The supporting ensemble here is well put together, with Joe's parents being played by Robert Forster and Jacki Weaver - who only want the best for him and constantly plead that he sorts his life out and absolve himself of the past. Joe also befriends a caretaker, played by Molly Parker, who is a delightful screen presence every time he encounters her in the story. There's also small fun roles for character actors Gary Cole and Pat Healy, who register as the most unscrupulous forces on opposite sides of the law, though they both register great chemistry with Coster-Waldau.
Small Crimes is a solid dramatic thriller, that shows Evan Katz is full of potential, and is sure to have a lasting career in modern genre cinema. It's definitely worth checking out when it premieres on Netflix later this spring.