Saturday, June 27, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Quarry

The Quarry
directed by Scott Teems
This movie teams up two very good character actors who have occasionally ventured into leading man territory. Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham have often worked together, most notably in Boardwalk Empire. 

They are two actors who I am always interested in watching because they bring depth and realism to their characters. 

No matter how over the top or strange the character may be written, these guys find a way to ground their depiction and make you feel that you know their character, even if on balance the person is despicable. Each man shines in this movie. However the film is slow moving. It's as if the writer/director decided to just throw these actors in the Texas setting and told them "Do something!"

The results were mixed. I thought a while about this review because I initially thought I might be judging a slow neo-noir thriller by action film standards. And upon further reflection I decided that no I wasn't. Even by the standards of thrillers aimed at adults with attention spans longer than thirty seconds The Quarry meanders and wanders. One might argue that the seeming pointlessness of many occurrences is actually the movie's entire point and that yours truly was just too dumb to see it. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Lives can be changed by just one random decision. I have a relative who enjoys pointing out what he considers to be Christian hypocrisy. He thinks that Christians must live exactly by the teachings of Jesus, no matter how difficult.

I am respectful of anyone who attempts to live by some challenging religious teachings or the even more exacting strictures of their conscience.

One such man is itinerant preacher David Martin (Bruno Bichir). Martin is a not so reformed alcoholic who's driving to his next assignment. He will be the minister in a small Texas town that is dying. The town is mostly Hispanic so it's a good thing that Martin, though from Ohio, is fluent in Spanish. 

Motorvating down the road, Martin sees a man passed out on the side of the road. Now I would have not thought twice about continuing on my merry way, but Martin is a man of God. He picks up the nameless man (Shea Whigham) and purchases him food and drink, as a good Samaritan would. 

Nameless is surly, uncommunicative, and not appreciative of Martin's help. Martin quickly figures out that Nameless is on the run. At a stop to stretch his legs, Martin tries to talk to Nameless, to get him to confess and get right with God. Could it also be that Martin has other more earthy interests in Nameless? We'll never know because angry at Martin's presumption at inquiring into his business and touching him, Nameless cracks Martin upside the head with a wine bottle. And Martin dies.

Doing a crappy job of burying the body, for some strange reason Nameless continues to the town. Arriving there, Nameless claims to be Martin. He boards with the strangely depressed Celia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who is nonplussed by the fact that Nameless doesn't try to put the moves on her. 

Apparently some previous preachers considered her favors to be job perks. Celia is also the on-again/off-again girlfriend of town police Chief Moore (Michael Shannon) who gives every indication of being precisely the sort of fellow who is just waiting for the day when he will chop up his family and start a racial holy war against THEM. 

Moore doesn't much like his job. He doesn't much like Hispanics though he's sleeping with one and working with several. Moore doesn't like that the times have changed. He's probably undergoing a midlife crisis. 

Surprisingly, Nameless, who is as Martin suggested, indeed suffering from some heavy burdens, becomes a popular preacher among the mostly Hispanic congregation, though he speaks no Spanish. Nameless is down to earth and doesn't judge. But Moore and a few other people have noticed some things that don't add up.

This film is an extended riff on guilt, sorrow and the weight of expectations. It is not really an exciting "Will he be caught or not" story. I'm not sure that Nameless was a sympathetic character. Moreno was really underutilized, so much so that I wondered if massive parts of her story were cut. You may think that God forgives everyone and that we should forgive other people. This film is more about whether we can ever truly forgive ourselves. This probably should have been a better film. Nevertheless Shannon and Whigham give it all they've got.
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