After the praise Evan Katz received for his directorial debut Cheap Thrills, there’s a certain level of expectations set for SMALL CRIMES, an adaptation of David Zeltserman’s novel of the same name. He tackles very heady material in this pulpy noir and although entertaining (to a certain extent) and stacked with a phenomenal roster of actors, the film tends to become over-involved and twisted within itself.
In the film, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau takes a break from Westeros and heads on over to a small town where he plays crooked cop police Joe Denton, who was just released from prison after doing some time for the attempted murder of a District Attorney. So when he comes back to start a new life, the reception is anything but warm. The police department hates him, he’s been abandoned by his ex-wife and children and his parents question his attempt to transition back to normalcy. To make matters worse, he left a huge mess behind as a result of the aforementioned murder of the DA.
Turns out, Joe is not the only one that is crooked. His old boss (Gary Cole) wants him to take care of some stuff for him. And by “stuff” he wants him to kill their old employer. This gets him tangled in some serious, life-threatening situations that involve some faces from his past. What starts off as a second chance for Joe to get his act together turns into another chance for him to end up in prison — for life.
As straightforward as the story sounds, the film ends up being convoluted with characters and details that are supposed to be important but aren’t fully fleshed out enough to solidify a strong story. The film becomes exhausting trying to keep track of who did what to whom and who is supposed to kill who and why. It becomes too messy to the point where you wish that Coster-Waldau would just hop on a dragon and fly back to Westeros where things make more sense — and that’s saying something considering the gajillion storylines crisscrossing in Game of Thrones.
Despite its labored execution of a noir-esque storyline, Coster-Waldau pulls off a great performance as a man trying to redeem himself for his terrible past. As much as he tries to pull himself out of his hole, he ends up digging a deeper one and Coster-Waldau certainly delivered on that end. The all-star supporting cast delivered on-par performances; trying to explain to us what the hell was going on. I enjoying seeing Cole in roles like this which require him to be a funny, yet horrible human being — a thing that he has also mastered in his roles in Veep and Office Space. Molly Parker gives heart and a grounds the movie as Joe’s love interest, while Macon Blair (who co-wrote the film with Katz) provides a levity to the film as Joe’s earnest colleague. Then there’s Robert Forster and Jacki Weaver who play Joe’s parents. Their mere presence in this film elevates its prestige level one full step.
Small Crimes served up some admirable performances, but the complicated story had a difficult time unpacking the contents of the story — and there were many items to unpack. It is also labeled as a “dark comedy” — and it was hardly that. Tonally, it didn’t fully fill in that circle and it wasn’t as suspenseful as it thought it was. The movie entertained enough, but with a more finely tuned storyline, it could have entertained more.
Not yet rated
Running time: 90 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
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Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer