‘Small Town Hero’ – Charismatic Portrayal of One-Man-Justice in a Village

Can a vigilante exist in a small village as a beneficial star or hero? Yes and no. Find out why and why not when you see this film.

I sat down and enjoyed Small Town Hero today. It had the thrills of a vengeance film but with a dark comedic element. Having said that, some scenes are dead serious.

vigilante-poster

Small Town Hero (2019)
Cast

Simon Cassidy, Millie Reeves, Moir Leslie

Directed by

Darren Bolton

Written by

Darren Bolton

Other Info

Drama
Rated PG-13
1h 30min

When punk street fighter kids get old they sometimes make it in society. By “making it” I don’t mean they become famous actors or musicians, but rather, they sometimes make it as members of a small village leading lives of quiet desperation. I use the word “sometimes” because they don’t always make it and more often than not, they end up in jail or dead. The ones who do make it, often add a lot of value to their hometown. I had my prediction early on in this film that “Pep” (Simon Cassidy: Labrats, North and South) was not going to be one of those. I won’t reveal if I was right or wrong here though.

Pep starts out as an unemployed, relatively young guy in his 30’s who has to pick a fight with just about anyone he sees. The director, Darren Bolton, who is known for Scent and a short film also called Vigilante on which the film is based, chose to shoot the film in documentary format. This works well to create suspense and it draws the viewer up close to the Pep. He is a sort of small town hero but I use that word loosely. Not everyone in the village is a fan and they let him know in scenes ranging from the coffee shop to their front doors when Pep comes by to do his “service calls.”

Pep sets out immediately in the film to clean up the streets of this village he is in. In many ways, his actions are that of an out-and-out asshole. In other ways, he is a charismatic figure who can exact justice when he sees the chance. But despite small town fame, there is something not right about Pep and we watch in high suspense as we wait for him to mess up. There was a time in the film when I was proven wrong, surprised he was correct about a perpetrator of a burglary. Other times, it was clear he was wrong about who he accused. Unlike most people though, Pep doesn’t seem to show remorse or ever apologize when he does have the wrong person. This sets up a lot of tension as he continues to seek his own reckless vigilante justice.

vigilante1There are several actors that captured my attention but the one most worth mentioning I think is his ex-wife Becky (Millie Reeves). Since Pep is always hamming it up with his camera crew, it’s difficult to see what he is really like. Becky doesn’t buy into his newfound local stardom. She is downright annoyed every time he comes around to see his son. We get lots of hints from peoples’ reactions about Pep’s character but ultimately, not much concrete is revealed so we have to make our own conclusions. Becky has a bit of love and lot of hate and resentment for Pep. He’s a charismatic character you love to hate certainly. He also represents the animal inside all of us that doesn’t want to wait for cops and courts. When we are wronged, we want justice now. That’s why Pep appeals to us.

vigilante-2This is not a particularly violent film, though it has a few shocking depictions. The confrontations are not as bloody as Dead Man’s Shoes for example but both films carry a theme of vigilantism. Simon Cassidy is an actor I have not seen before this. He is a very charismatic, quick actor and was a pleasure to watch in this role. I like films like this because I can feel imagined vindication without going to jail for it. These movies usually draw a large audience because people enjoy the catharsis of vigilante films. From credits to credits, these elements are present and it’s my hope a lot of people will be able to see and enjoy this film as I did. The way it ends up for Pep is not predictable but it does make sense. Discussing it with my wife over coffee, I could hear she had some of the same feelings I did about Pep. This is a thinking man’s (woman’s) film or sure to be discussed with a date or a friend at length. I will certainly discuss it on some future podcast.

There are many remarkable particulars about this film but I think one of the most noteworthy is the editing. I imagine editing for any feature film is a bitch but when you look at the hundreds of cuts that are made in this quasi biography, the task appears gargantuan. David Brook does an elegant and commanding job telling this story through its editing.

All in all, this new film Small Town Hero is a masterpiece that achieves what it sets out to do. Bullseye. For that reason, I give it a 10/10.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

A female abduction crime thriller that gets a lot right!


The “Disappearance of Alice Creed” is a British film starring Gemma Atherton. She plays the pretty young daughter of a millionaire and she is kidnapped and held for ransom. The crime part of it is interesting. 

Director is J Blakeson. He’s known for the 5th wave which I found slow and boring. He also directed “The Descent Part 2” which I found refreshingly good in spite of being a sequel to a horror film I really like.

Gemma Atherton has done a lot through the years and continues to. You might recall her from “The Girl With All the Gifts” or “Hansel and Gretel” the horror film.

The two men who abduct her are played by Eddie Marsan & Martin Compston. They are at times abominable and at others buffoons. Either way, they mean business and will stop at nothing to extract the ransom for Atherton’s character. I enjoyed the interplay between all three. There were times when she was alone with each one and the dialog makes it very interesting to see who is playing who. The cat and mouse game goes traditional ways but there may be a turn or two for fans of the genre to be surprised at. People may say I liked it for the nudity as well but I will always deny it!

This is a much better film than the other. If you like crime thrillers that show psychological battles, it may be for you. It’s def for me: I gave it 8/10.

Note: My review appears in a podcast featuring 2 movies here:

Magic, 1978 – ★★½

Not as creepy as I hoped for. Still, some creepy stuff. Hopkins delivers an amazing performance, but are you surprised to hear that? Story could have used some more attention. Hopkins isn’t given much credible stuff to work with.

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The Curse of La Llorona, 2019 – ★½

Raymond Cruz, known as “Tuco” in Breaking Bad, is the only shaft of light in this listless excuse for a horror movie.

The theater was packed due to the fact that this is supposed to be the legend of La Llorona, the crying woman ghost who has drowned her sons after their father cheated. Perhaps Cruz reading the story by firelight would be more entertaining.

As it is, there are some jump scares that came as a surprise but none were classified as eerie or creepy scary. The evil looked like The Nun, and the Nun at least had context but still wasn’t very scary. Hoe can James Wan, producer of Saw Insdious and Conjuring 2 keep financing these un-scary films?

IN conclusion,, this looks like a cash grab, feeding on the hispanic ticket buyer. The saddest thing about that is they never fleshed out the actual legend which is much scarier than the contrived story in this film. Horror fans should miss this one.

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?, 2018 – ★★★½

I’m torn on this one. I found the story (true) interesting and I never knew people could make money off letters of famous writers just as it was a pawn shop commodity. That is the interesting part worth watching.

People say the acting is amazing but I really didn’t find it special. I went ahead and gave it a 7/10 because fans of the actors will enjoy watching it. I was left a bit wanting after this one but I know many will probably like it. I recommend it despite my experience (which is rare for me).

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The Beach Bum, 2019 – ★★★

This is a “what did I just see?” film for sure. Don’t think you’re getting another “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” This ‘aint yo momma’s rom com! Some people will rebel against this film and hate the drug use, sex, an debauchery. Others will laugh and enjoy it, recalling the beach bums we have known and loved in our lives. This film is anything but standard. Go in expecting a stoner’s paradise and you won’t be disappointed.

Harmony Korine is a true artist not enslaved to convention and fads. He wrote the screenplay for “Kids” and directed and wrote “Gummo.” I’ll be looking out for his projects, definitely a dude from my generation and after my heart. Because I thought this film could have had a better storyline, it loses a few points. Beware. Otherwise, it’s nearing excellence folks.

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Pet Sematary, 2019 – ★★★★½ (contains spoilers)

This review may contain spoilers.

I really liked this movie for its creepiness and it scariness. Hear my podcast on it here: thedrpodcast.com/pet-sematary-2019/

Although the clown monster hit “It” may end up grossing more box office dollars, this is a better horror movie in my perspective. The creepiness permeates and paves the way for a quaint yet terrifying tale of one family and a mystic pet sematary just behind their house.

have observed modern horror includes both remakes of past hits as well as re imaginings. These span from “Friday the 13th” to “The Fly” and beyond. Here we have a remake with a slight re imagining element. Pet Sematary revitalizes the beloved 80’s film by Stephen King and respectively repackages it into a film that is more artful, more creepy, and more thought provoking than the original. This isn’t just a jump-scare film either, though it has some of that. It is a horror film through and through creepiness and dark, misty atmosphere included.

Quaint may not be the best adjective for this tale in that it has elements of horror and gore interspersed with a simple story about a quaint family in an all-American home. I think it’s important to note however that getting a story across should have simple pillars. I think the clown film “It” gets way into the complicated zone and for me this detracts from the power of the story. This film indeed has a quaint, or simple, story that is tastefully told using horror elements that accentuate instead of blot it out.

Another benefit of this simplicity is that entry level horror fans can have better access to it. Walking into a haunted house, the riff raff gets sorted out pretty quickly. By that I mean: they do not continue. If it’s a more mild form of scare, they may come through and enjoy the whole attraction. That happened with my youngest daughter, age 11. She’s not into horror yet but she really wanted to see this movie. She ended up loving it. She’s still not claiming to be a horror fan but I would say this film has that “entry level horror” quality to it.

The trailer is not “entry level” sounding, let’s listen to it now …

At the get go I want to address the direction “team.” Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. This film plays like a film that people cared for over a long time. There are no accidents. It all works perfectly too. These directors are behind “Starry Eyes.” This goes to show you they had a value for graphic horror in this film. “Starry Eyes” is one of those films where you relate because it looks like it could be happening in your own home or apartment. In fact, as the body count rises, you start thinking about how you will need to hide the evidence. These two can make the film personal and bring the creepiness home to the horror fan. Since “Pet Sematary” takes place with a family in a home and builds its horror moments between family members, Kolsch was a perfect choice. You feel that creepy atmosphere and personal discomfort. I think I’ve discovered a new favorite director team. You can bet I’ll be watching everything they do. I also applaud the producers here for supporting these two on this project. I can only dream of what they COULD have done with “It.” As it is, I am not a huge fan.

A shout out must go to Matt Greenburg for crafting the screenplay. He did Reign of Fire which I really enjoyed. He has some other films under his belt he’s done that are quite impressive: “Seventh Son” and “Halloween H20.” Clearly this project required a talented writer. I loved some of the carefully made changes. They are actually more nods to the original film rather than just detail changes. Here at the beginning, let’s take a look at this cast and see how it stacks up to horror. Jason Clark plays the father/husband in this. He does a pretty good job overall. How do I say this respectfully and delicately? Clark lacks the range in my opinion to play what this role requires. When he is tender with his wife and family his face looks exactly the same as when he is obsessing. There are a couple scenes where it’s hard to know if he is a secretive killer (even though most people know the character he playing well from the book from the prior film). I saw an interview with Clark where he spoke about (in his thick Australian accent) how his personal focus in the role was to show people his fatherly, loving relationship with his daughter, wife and son, and then let them react to what happens bad in the movie. I think he said the right things but his facial expressions and demeanor never really changed it seems and it did seem out of place when he did the things he did before and then later in the film as well.

An actor with a somewhat more calming and happy countenance might have improved the role I think. It’s important we really identify and like the protagonist in this story. I feel Clark is miscast in this role.

Amy Seimetz is a better casting choice. She plays the cuddling wife that truly relies on her husband. She is recovering from the trauma of the death of her sister and this weighs heavy on her moods and most importantly, prevents her from finding peace in her life. I think her character shows the largest moral in this story. When we lose a pet or a loved one, the natural course of grieving should eventually allow them to “rest in peace.” The inability to let them go interrupts that process and people get, well “strange.” They can, in fact, go mad. This is where Stephen King’s phrase “Sometimes dead is better.” fits in nicely to the main idea of the movie: Let the dead go! BUt Seimetz is a fresh place of relief in this movie. She represents more innocence than anyone, even though she feels so guilty for Zelda’s death.

Jeté Laurence is a ray of sunshine in this. She already has a lot of acting work on her resume The Snowman (2017), The Americans (2013) and Jessica Jones (2015). This young one has been listening to the grownups! She has some acting chops that are devastatingly sharp. Not only is she very cute but she knows how to play ugly too. She plays a much deeper and wider role in this than the actor plays in the original.

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