MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Cut Bank’ Finds Murder And Mystery In A Quiet Town

Cut-Bank-Movie-Review

Film: Cut Bank
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Billy Bob Thornton
Directed by: Matt Shakman

Set against the backdrop of a quiet community too small to make national headlines, Cut Bank tells a story of murder and hope through the eyes of a desperate young man.

Liam Hemsworth is Dwayne McLaren, a twenty-something who has spent the better part of the last half decade wanting nothing more than to move out of Cut Bank, the small town he calls home. One day Dwayne’s life is forever changed when he and his girlfriend, Cassandra, witness the first murder in the community’s history, which they also happen to capture on camera. It’s a somewhat blurry video, offering next to no details about the assailant, but it’s more than enough to spawn a manhunt that will soon impact the lives of everyone Dwayne knows.

Speaking of additional characters, almost everyone involved in this film has a strong body of work behind them. Hemsworth and his on-screen girlfriend, played by Teresa Palmer, are the two least known cast members in this film. Billy Bob Thornton, John Malkovich, Oliver Platt, and the ever-immaculate Bruce Dern all deliver impressive supporting turns, though none ever reach the heights of greatness found in their previous dramatic roles. It’s admirable work, which from time to time touches on something special, but overall nothing delivered by anyone on screen is all that enthralling. It’s like watching a baseball player in the off season. They still play well, but no one is bringing their World Series performance to a Florida practice field in March.

What I love and hate about a movie like Cut Bank is how its twisted, secret-heavy plot makes discussing the film without spoiling its mystery next to impossible. The murder you read about in the paragraph above very much occurs, as does the ensuing police chase, but it’s the reason for the murder and those responsible for its orchestration that makes Cut Bank something more than your typical small town thriller. What you think the plot entails is likely not at all what happens, but to explain what does unfold would be to spoil one of the best murder-mystery twists in recent memory. Just know that no one and nothing, not even the camera, can be trusted.

For as much as Roberto Patino’s script works to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, the direction of Matt Shakman leaves a lot to be desired. Though the story may be thrilling, the camera work plays like a Lifetime original movie, and over time that simplicity begins to wear down any edge the twists and turns of the story may provide. By the time the final twist comes you may already be bored to the point of no longer caring how things turn out solely because the camera work is handled in such limp-wristed fashion you would think a total amateur with no on-set experience shot it after binging on crime procedurals from the late 80s/early 90s. It’s embarrassing, and you cannot help feeling like the entire film would play better with someone else at the helm.

Not good enough to praise, but nowhere near a disaster, Cut Bank offers a unique story delivered through performances good enough to justify overlooking the numerous directorial shortcomings. I wouldn’t say this film is worth a trip to the cinema, nor the cost of a movie ticket, but in five or six months when Cut Bank lands on Netflix it will do a fine job of helping you escape an otherwise boring Sunday afternoon. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be let down.

GRADE: C-

Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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