Judge Patrick Bromley is a small town judge, living in a lonely world...
Putting off tomorrow is 24 hours too long.
The new indie drama Small Town Saturday Night is a little like the movie equivalent of a tree falling in the woods: it's a quiet movie released with hardly any fanfare and no one around to hear it make a sound. Thankfully, DVD has made it possible for movies like this to find an audience even if they don't ever receive a theatrical release, giving Small Town Saturday Night a chance it might not have otherwise had. It's not a great movie, but it is a sincere and likable one, and it deserves better than the utter obscurity it might have otherwise been relegated to if not for the intervention of Lionsgate and a nice supporting turn by recently-crowned movie star and Captain Kirk 2.0, one Chris Pine.
He stars as Rhett, a mechanic with dreams of moving to Nashville and becoming a country star. The only thing holding him back is his relationship with divorced single mom Samantha (Bre Blair, The Unit), who can't make up her mind whether or not she wants to come with him or try and rekindle things with her ex, Tommy, the local sheriff (Shawn Christian, Meet Dave). We also get to meet Donny (John Hawkes, Eastbound and Down), a violent screwup fresh out of prison; Les (Adam Hendershott, Sydney White), Rhett's awkward younger brother; their doting, religious mother, Phyllis (Lin Shaye of ever other movie ever made, including Cellular); Charlie, the town drunk (Muse Watson, Prison Break) and more. The film follows one day and night in the life of this small town and its inhabitants, all of whom are connected in some way and only some of whom are looking to get out and do something more with their lives.
For its first half, Small Town Saturday Night is pretty strong stuff. It's modest, for sure, but boasts some strong character work from an impressive ensemble cast of (mostly) recognizable faces (including Reggie Bannister from the Phantasm movies!). It doesn't offer anything we haven't already seen in a dozen other small-town movies, but it's executed well and it's obvious that writer/director Ryan Craig genuinely likes and cares about each of his characters. As the movie progresses, however, it slowly becomes apparent that Craig isn't going to take the story anywhere. What once felt intimate begins to feel small, and Craig's decision to connect each of the characters to one another doesn't improve the movie in any way. It only makes it feel smaller.
Of course, the real story of Small Town Saturday Night is that it stars Chris Pine in his first role after blowing up playing Captain James T. Kirk in last summer's excellent Star Trek (2009) reboot. Obviously, he's now gone 180 degrees the other direction, choosing a small, intimate, low-budget indie instead of cashing in with another FX spectacle (some might say he's chosen to be more Matt Damon than Ben Affleck). The fact that Small Town Saturday Night has bypassed theatrical release altogether and has gone straight to DVD means that Pine doesn't have enough juice to open just any movie, but that's OK. If Star Trek proved anything, it's that Chris Pine is a real live movie star and has a big career in front of him. Let's not fault him for taking some chances and lending his celebrity to a movie that might not even see the light of day otherwise, theatrical release or not.
Fans of the actor might be interested to know that he plays guitar and sings in the Small Town Saturday Night as well, performing his own original song "Someday Came Today." It's a fairly generic country tune, but nevertheless annoyed me in that way where I felt like the guy didn't need any more talent. He's a good looking movie star and a capable actor. He doesn't need to be able to sing and play the guitar, too. Spread some of that around, Chris Pine.
Small Town Saturday Night receives a modest DVD release courtesy of Lionsgate. The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; while it's far from the best the format has to offer, the video quality is acceptable. Colors are vibrant when needed and, for the most part, the contrast and black levels work. The image could be sharper all around, as it's prone to bouts of softness, but it's not all that distracting in what's essentially a talking-head movie. There are no visible defects or flaws in the print, either. The 5.1 audio track services the dialogue just fine and pays fair service to the live music sequences, but those don't really factor in until the last minutes of the movie. The only extra is the movie's original trailer.
Not bad, but might be too small time to matter.
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