An alcoholic, guilty ex-cop, a string of grizzly murders, an ever-evolving and convoluted plot, a young girl abused by a system that doesn’t care about her. That’s the plot of plenty of noir crime thrillers from New Hollywood in the 1970s — and the plot of SMALL TOWN CRIME from Eshom and Ian Nelms. Unfortunately, rather than doing anything interesting with the genre, it simply plays into the same, tired tropes, especially regarding cringe-inducing violence against women.
John Hawkes stars as the aforementioned alcoholic ex-cop who’s not working very hard at getting his life back on track (and drives a car that matches his masculine pride to boot). When he stumbles across the murder of a young girl, he takes it upon himself to find who killed her and happens upon a larger and much more dangerous plot along the way.
Octavia Spencer and Anthony Anderson also co-star in the film, the former of whom served as executive producer as well. Spencer’s involvement, especially behind the camera, gave high hopes to this project, which makes it all the more surprising and disappointing that the final product turned out how it did. Not everything about the film is negative — there are some moments of genuine comedy and Hawkes’ performance is remarkable, remaining easy to watch even through everything else.
Still, the film begs the unfortunate questions: why is violence towards women still treated this way in the media and how many women need to die, especially on-screen, to serve some guilt-ridden white man trying to find his purpose again? There’s nothing appealing about a group of men fighting over the agency of young women when there’s a much better story in which the women in this film actually have agency.
Plenty of the film is dated, which doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, but its backward notions of gender should definitely stay in the past.
Rated: Not yet rated
Running time: 91 minutes
Anya is a writer and editor with a passion for pursuing diverse narratives and perspectives. Her feminist icons are Lauren Bacall and Leslie Knope and she can often be found at a Disney park when she’s not working on her Masters in Mass Communication/Journalism at Cal State University Northridge.
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Anya Crittenton | Associate Editor