Unlike this movie, Judge Clark Douglas knows there are no dancers at Hooters.
Trouble always finds a way home.
"It's all been taken care of."
Facts of the Case
Things haven't been going so well lately for Billy (Troy Garity, Sunshine). He's just found out this he is the father of a young boy named Clayton (Colin Ford, Bride Wars). He owes a lot of money to Red (Dave Matthews, Because of Winn-Dixie), a violent and unstable thug. To make matters worse, Clayton's junkie mother (Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos) has just run out of town, abandoning her son. Billy needs to get out of town in order to escape Red's psychotic behavior, and he feels at least partially responsible for Clayton. Billy and Clayton hit the road and head south to Lake City, the small town where Billy grew up.
A lot of people are surprised to see Billy back in town, not least of all his mother Maggie (Sissy Spacek, Three Women). She makes an attempt to welcome Billy back warmly, but Billy isn't going to make it that easy. He's obviously harboring a lot of bitterness and resentment, and seems to suffer constantly from the knowledge that he has screwed up his life. In town one day, Billy runs into Jennifer (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men: The Last Stand), an old flame who's now a member of the local law enforcement. He also meets Roy (Keith Carradine, Nashville), a gas station attendant who has suppressed his strong feelings for Maggie for years. Slowly but surely, bonds begin to form, wounds begin to heal, and characters begin to re-discover themselves. The process will not be an easy one. There are battles to be fought, both physical and emotional. Who will find salvation?
There are enough good characters in Lake City to suggest that it should have been a good movie. The film is the debut effort of the writing/directing team of Perry Moore and Hunter Hill. The pair co-founded the production company "66 Productions," and chose to make Lake City the company's debut effort. It's obvious that a lot of heart and passion has been put into the film, and everyone involved seems to be trying hard to make Lake City a success. Perhaps they were trying too hard. The end result is an overheated, melodramatic outing that occasionally becomes cringe-worthy. It has a lot of heart, but what it really needed was a bit more subtlety.
Well, maybe a lot more subtlety. The "dark secrets" of the film are telegraphed so obviously that it's hard not to laugh just a little. It becomes clear from the beginning that something has happened in Billy and Maggie's past. Both of them seem to develop a strong attachment to Clayton very quickly. At one point, Clayton sees Maggie coming out of one of the bedrooms in the house. "What's in that room?" he asks. "We don't go in there," Maggie says sadly. Ah, so someone must have died in that room. Maggie is very kind and sweet most of the time, but when she sees Clayton sitting in the back of the pickup truck, she screams, "Get out! Get out of the back of that truck!" Ah, so the person that died must have fallen out of the back of a pickup truck. Later, we see Maggie staring at a piece of paper with the name "Andy" on it. She hears someone walking nearby, crumples up the piece of paper, dries her eyes and walks away. Ah, so the person who died was named Andy. The only problem is, the film expects us to be shocked and surprised when it spells all of this information out for us later on.
For most of its running time, Lake City is a low-key, character-driven drama. When it decides to turn intense and frantic, it provides scenes that feel very out of place. The first offender is the scene in which Clayton's mother returns to try and get Clayton. Three minutes of screaming, swearing, and cocaine swirl around before things settle right back down again, and for some reason the scene never registers. Much worse is the action-packed finale, in which Red and some powerful mobsters provide a noisy shootout scene. Suddenly we've got gunfire going on everywhere, pounding action music ripped straight from a Bruckheimer film, harrowing chases through a cornfield, and lots of the old ultraviolence. This scene feels like something out of a corny slasher movie, and completely takes away any of the credibility the film had accumulated over the course of its running time. The sequence is bookended by scenes that feel like something from a Hallmark movie, which just left me shaking my head in bewilderment. What were Moore and Hill thinking?
The film was shot on location in Virginia, and the transfer captures the rural setting of the film quite nicely. There's a bit of black crush throughout, but otherwise the image is fairly pleasing. Flesh tones seem just about right, the colors are warm and vibrant, and the level of detail is satisfactory. The audio is crisp and clean throughout, and all of the audio elements are well balanced. The big shootout scene is appropriately aggressive, but isn't so noisy in contrast to everything else that you will be forced to adjust the volume. The DVD menu has a button that says "DVD Extras," but all you will find there is an option to turn on Spanish subtitles.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The performances may not be strong enough to save the film, but at least they keep it watchable. The most impressive member of the cast is Spacek, who brings a tender credibility to even the most ludicrous of scenes. The actress provides a broken strength that serves as the film's most compelling element, and manages to make almost everyone she interacts with better. I also quite liked Keith Carradine's warm turn as the gas station attendant, and Barry Corbin has an all-too-brief scene as Spacek's brother. Dave Matthews is just plain funny as the savage Red, though it's difficult to tell whether or not this effect was intentional. Either way, I enjoyed watching the character.
Spacek fans may want to give the film a rent in order to see yet another strong performance from the actress, but I simply can't recommend the film to the average viewer. The total absence of supplemental material pretty much seals the deal.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Screen Media Films
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