Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
“Bad Turn Worse” joins a long line of movies about people who stayed in dangerous, desperate places just a little too long (it was originally called “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”). Simon and Zeke Hawkins’ confident thriller opens by name-checking Jim Thompson, and proceeds to tell a tale that Thompson himself would have admired in its duplicitous simplicity. With its constant state of twilight lighting, cinematography that somehow conveys what feels like oppressive heat, and characters stuck in criminal quicksand, “Bad Turn Worse” actually earns that Thompson comparison at its best. It’s a confident, engaging film, undone by some narrative sag in the middle but worth seeing for its opening and closing acts.
Bobby (Jeremy Allen White of “Shameless”) and Sue (Mackenzie Davis of “Halt and Catch Fire”) are leaving the podunk town in which they’ve grown up in Middle of Nowhere, Texas. They’re going to college, leaving behind Sue’s lunk of a boyfriend B.J. (Logan Huffman). On one of their last nights together, B.J. decides that the trio should go out in style. He bankrolls the partying by robbing the safe of his moronic boss Giff (Mark Pellegrino), after figuring out that everything, from his pin number to the combination in his office, is based on a variation of his favorite number: 69. B.J. is the kind of testosterone-heavy man-child who doesn’t think before he acts and seriously underestimates the malevolence in the heart of his employer.
Bobby and B.J. come in the next day to work to find Giff repeatedly kicking the Mexican employee that he thinks robbed him. To try and stop the violence, Bobby announces that he took the money, protecting B.J. and, foolishly, thinking he can now make things right. Giff tells Bobby that in order to repay him, he’ll have to do a job, an even bigger robbery of a crime lord named Big Red, who launders money through Giff’s place of business. Of course, this can’t possibly end well.
“Bad Turn Worse” is a story in which the dread comes from well-defined feelings like desperation and jealousy. B.J. lashes out at the two friends leaving him behind in this desolate Texas landscape with nothing but the inevitable path to his asshole employer’s life. B.J. becomes Giff becomes Big Red. It’s the circle of criminal life. Dutch Southern’s script works because we can feel the emotion behind B.J.’s lashing out at the two people leaving him behind. As played by Huffman, B.J. is the kind of kid who figured out a long time ago that Bobby and Sue are smarter than him, and likely headed to lives that will leave him behind. Therefore, his violent stupidity feels organic to the emotion of his character and not merely a plot device as in so many lesser indie thrillers.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
Meryl Streep and other awards recipients shared their thoughts on an America under Donald Trump during last night's G...
A review of NBC's "Emerald City," premiering January 6th.