UK Release Date – TBC
Cutler County, Mississippi isn’t the best place to make an over night stop for a variety of reasons. There’s a drug problem, the police are corrupt, and there are some shady things going on at a local lakeside nature spot known as… The Hollow. Worst of all this is a dry county, free from the Devil’s liquor. Of course it doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand in this crime thriller about a murder out by the lake. However this is also a story that isn’t exactly told in an edge of your seat fashion; it’s a film which is in dire need of some work in the cutting room. At over 2 hours long there’s plenty of material that spoils the tension and frequently grinds things to a halt.
Police deputy Ray (Miles Doleac) isn’t a nice guy. When he’s not selling meth to the local addicts, he’s spending time with an underage girl from the local high school. She isn’t exactly shy about doing favours for the residents to say the least. But the seedy side of life is something Ray could care less about, and he doesn’t have time for real crime fighting. In fact he ridicules his partner Lucas about the idea. But when the girl shows up dead his amoral ways start to catch up with him. The two other bodies at the scene are also a big problem. When it’s discovered that a US Congress member’s daughter is amongst the dead, the Federal Government are called in to investigate.
Two FBI agents Vaughn (James Callis) and Sarah (Christiane Seidel) are soon sticking their oar in, bringing their whole tech support and forensics team with them. As you’d expect the local cops and the Bureau clash almost immediately, with plenty of suspicious behaviour from the sheriff’s department coming to light. It seems like a typical scenario as the Feds come across a larger problem under the seemingly tranquil countryside location. Police corruption, petty small town politics and investigations being road blocked by shadowy forces are all good material for a taught thriller. But the focus on these elements is diminished far too often by unnecessary melodrama and filler.
It seems like everyone in this story is having problems on the home front. Ray is trying to balance time with his wife and children with the nefarious side of his day job, while Vaughn is a recovering alcoholic attempting to fix child custody problems after a past of domestic violence. If you wanted a highly strung murder mystery, then prepare to wade through all of this superfluous material to get to it. Two protagonists on either side of the investigation should have been interesting, but instead it drags the story down at every opportunity. When an investigator from the US Attorney’s Office shows up to put more pressure on the agents, even they have a history involving Vaughn’s abusive past.
Even the villain of the piece ‘big’ John Dawson (William Forsythe) spends too much time discussing his grandson’s football team ambitions instead of just being sinister and underhanded. In terms of acting he’s definitely the strongest cast member, although nobody here is particularly bad as a whole. When the real drama arrives there are some good moments; when they finally stop talking about their family problems. William Sadler shows up as the Sheriff to chew the scenery for a couple of appearances, although Jeff Fahey as Ray’s father gets a grand total of one cameo moment. The problem is that the characterisation isn’t really that compelling, and often relies on clichés like corrupt Southern lawyers, self loathing alcoholics and overly religious families. It all needs trimming right down.
Things are at their most interesting when it gets to the real meat of the storyline, and measures are being taken to remove evidence or get rid of people who are a liability. But this isn’t well paced at all, and the rambling, meandering narrative takes an hour just to reveal Big John’s evil mansion. There’s too much padding all round whether it’s the redundant romantic scenes or the constant sports discussion. Cutting this down to a clean 90 minutes would probably recover a reasonably engaging, if unoriginal thriller. It’s not badly made, the cinematography is often moody and it has some solid performances. But in this bloated condition there’s not really any way to get invested.