Cut Bank (2015)
Written by Robert Patino
Directed by Matt Shakman
Cut Bank, Montana is the sight of a brutal murder of a local mail carrier, Georgie Wits. The whole incident is caught on video by Dwayne Mclaren and his girlfriend Cassie while they are hanging out at their spot in a field outside of town. Dwayne turns the video over to Sheriff Vogel who must now deal with the first homicide the city has ever had. But all is not as it seems and what was caught on video is only one perspective of the truth. While Vogel learns there are deeper layers to what occurred, town recluse Derby Milton snaps when a parcel hasn’t been delivered to him on time. Milton begins his own reasonably active side investigation to track down the mail stolen after the murder.
Cut Bank was a tremendously awful film made worse because the cast isn’t bad. John Malkovich. Billy Bob Thornton. Bruce Dern. Michael Stuhlbarg. These are all great actors who have been amazing in multiple other projects. In Cut Bank, they feel like they are phoning in the most uninspired performances. Stuhlbarg appears to be trying somewhat, but the stutter he gives Derby Milton is one of those cringey, affected character traits that doesn’t make the role more believable. Bruce Dern just feels tired and his role never really develops. Billy Bob Thornton behaves as if he is killing time until he can leave the set. Malkovich is the closest we get to a protagonist, becoming a blatant knock-off of Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men.
No Country For Old Men is a very apt reference because Cut Bank feels like a poor man’s Coen Brothers film. There is an attempt to infuse the story with a sense of dark humor, but the writing isn’t anywhere near as tightly and cleverly written as a Coen picture. Characters are presented as being salt of the earth, sharp-witted but living a slow, relaxed, rural life but never once feel honest. There is an exchange in the post office and the woman playing the clerk at the desk is trying her best to be a charming grandmotherly character, but the script provides her with zero content to work with her and her own natural charisma is not enough to convey these aspects.
The most significant weight dragging Cut Bank down, aside from a significantly poor script, is the leaden acting of Liam Hemsworth as the lead, Dwayne. His girlfriend, played by Teresa Palmer has some sense of personality but isn’t developed in the least. Dwayne is supposed to be a crucial part of a twisty turny rural noir crime story, but he has no magnetism that makes us want to follow him down this path. When he is meant to show angst and turmoil, he comes off as a whiny baby man, pouting in the corner.
In the end, Cut Bank is ultimately forgettable. It’s determined to mimic another type of movie and does so in a spectacularly poor fashion. As far as the A24 filmography goes, this feels like another picture in the pile of poorly made crime films the company was picking up for distribution in its early days. I for one will be happy when I get past this point in the marathon.