Magazine article Screen International

Cut Bank

Magazine article Screen International

Cut Bank

Article excerpt

Dir: Matt Shakman. US. 2014. 93mins

Cut Bank is a caper film set in the fertile American Heartland. The debut feature about small-town guys who run a scam to extract a reward from the Postal Service is a pile of knockoff flourishes which adds up to to a lot of manure in the fields of Montana.

In the town whose sole distinction is being "the coldest place in the nation," the celeb-studded ensemble cast is knee deep in offbeat references to Fargo, A Simple Plan, Twin Peaks, and to the television shows where first-timer Matt Shakman paid his dues, but even Bruce Dern, fresh from Nebraska honours (with no time to shave), can't save this one. Critics will be hard to rally for the film's theatrical release. VOD for diehard fans seems a natural platform.

As good guys, neither Malkovich nor Thornton weighs heavily enough in the ensemble to seize the day.

While the actors may want to forget this one, scenes from Cut Bank will surely haunt extended versions of Dern lifetime achievement reels.

Cut Bank is a town to escape for young Dwayne (Liam Hemsworth), who toils as a mechanic in the garage of the father (Billy Bob Thornton) of his pert blonde girlfriend, Cassandra (Teresa Palmer). Note the heartland allusion to restless small-town Duane, played by Jeff Bridges in The Last Picture Show (1971).

The young couple are filming a PSA to promote local tourism in a town that has none, when mailman Georgie Wits (Bruce Dern) is shot in the distance. Enter John Malkovich as the dutiful but hapless local Andy of Mayberry cop to solve the mystery.

In the script by fellow film newcomer, Robert Patino, the mailman's "killing" is a scam concocted by Dern, Dwayne, and a tall Indian accomplice from the nearby Blackfoot reservation (think Fargo) to pocket $100,000 in reward money from blustery postal inspector Joe Barrett (Oliver Platt). But to get the reward, they need a dead body - an odd dilemma, in this film with more talking bodies in its cast than a celebrity roast, including Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays a eccentric recluse taxidermy buff who's fixated on finding a parcel from a bundle of mail that Dern dumped when he staged his disappearance.

Another dilemma - the laughs in this Coen-clone comedy of errors don't rise to roast level, despite a rising body count. …

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