Directed by Jeff Nichols.
Written by Jeff Nichols.
Starring Michael Shannon, Douglas Ligon, and Barlow Jacobs.
Release Year: ???
Review Date: 4/29/07
The first of three films that I watched at
the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, "Shotgun Stories" is an
old-fashioned family feud drama, complete with two families who are
bonded by a patriarch that was loved by some and absolutely hated by
others...and, instead of taking the slant of simmering emotions that
lead to a shootout at the OK Corral, the film takes a more realistic
look at two families that simply don't like each other and take
differing steps to resolve this hatred.
Michael Shannon (a classic
"guy-in-the-background" character actor with more than 30 screen
credits) stars as Son Hayes, a 30-something Arkansas fish farmer who
is on the long, long path to nowhere when we meet him; as the oldest
of three men, we only know that he's got a gambling problem, a wife
from whom he is separated, and two brothers named Boy (Douglas Ligon)
and Kid (Barlow Jacobs) who are also just getting by and down on
their luck. They don't talk to their mom any more; we learn
quickly that their father, Clemen, has just died...which is fine by
them, because the man was a deadbeat in every sense of the word when
the boys were growing up. Clemen had a second chance, though,
after divorcing the mother of Son, Boy and Kid and remarrying, to a
woman that bore four more boys who had a much more positive
experience with Clemen and are the ones who bury Clemen a few days
after his death.
Son and his brothers crash this funeral and,
in doing so, offend the second Hayes foursome so much that you just
know things are gonna go down later. But, this is where the
film takes a bit of a turn--by creating this new drama,
writer/director Jeff Nichols decides to shelve the drama and
intermittently slide it in while letting us get to know the seven
Hayes boys over the course of the next hour; the effect is
occasionally powerful, even if the means are quite subtle and at
times, downright quiet. Patience really is a virtue while
watching "Shotgun Stories"; if you take time out to appreciate the
beautiful scenery of rural Arkansas and the stoic vision of the
characters as they struggle through a life that, quite frankly, I
hope to never regularly live, there's something kind of relaxing
about the film, even if it gets to a fever pitch that is still quite
quiet in the general scheme of things.
Having seen Shannon in other films (looking
at the list now on IMDB, the only ones I remember standing out were
bit parts in
"Bad Boys II" and
and then listening to him speak at the post-screening Q&A of the
film, you can see why Arkansas-native Nichols wanted to cast Shannon
so badly for his film--Shannon's not acting when he drawls out his
lines in "Shotgun Stories" and his bleak, intimidating style works
well here in trying to envision a man who doesn't take any shit.
The rest of the cast is similarly redneckish, to strong effect;
Nichols casts a light on the younger Hayes foursome as the
slightly-bad guys that in retrospect is pretty cool, by making them
just slightly less redneckish, slightly more well-off (driving cars
that are not totally shitty, having real names, not just nicknames;
generally having jobs that are slightly less shitty, etc.).
And, in having a one-eyed former criminal/local know-it-all named
Shampoo (who also has the film's best line, while driving away from
a conversation with a lead character: "Bienvenidos, bitch!!"),
"Shotgun Stories" even has a taste of comic relief which helps break
up some of the silence.
All of us agreed after the screening that we
were probably on that 3-out-of-5 line when the film was over, but by
having the writer/director and all of the cast there to answer
questions, "Shotgun Stories" got a bump because it was fun learning
more about the movie when it was over AND watching the cast--who
shot this film literally in October of 2004 in less than a
month--still have much of the chemistry that worked well onscreen.
Nichols also added a couple of good stories about the production to
all of this, and this just left me a bit more excited about the
film, which is reflected in the final rating.
Hard to say if this one will be picked up
(as of our screening, there is not a distribution deal in place
yet), but if it is, I think it will be a modest success for those
involved. With a cast this no-name, though, it will be tough
for it to make a real dent, but if this makes it to DVD, it is worth
a viewing at the casa.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard