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.
Simon Cassidy, Millie Reeves, Moir Leslie
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.
There 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.
This 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.