Cut Bank (2014)
Directed by Matt Shakman
“Welcome to Cut Bank MT. The coldest spot in the nation” announces the sign at the entrance to the town where Dwayne (Liam Hemsworth) and girlfriend Cassandra (Teresa Palmer) reside, dreaming of a life somewhere where there is life.
Dwayne cares for his severely disabled dad by night, and works in a body shop owned by Cassandra’s highly buttoned-up father Big Stan (Billy Bob Thornton). Cassandra aims to take first place in the upcoming Miss Cut Bank contest and, while filming her rehearsing her performance, Dwayne’s camera records the shooting by an unknown assailant of grouchy mailman Georgie Wits (Bruce Dern). The tape could be the key to a $100,000 reward for Dwayne, and escape from Cut Bank.
But first, there needs to be a body, and the murderer drove off with mail-man and mail-van. And the van contained something very important to local oddball, Derby Milton (Michael Stuhlbarg).
I’m spoiling little by saying that we learn early on it was Dwayne who set up the whole fake murder, aiming to collect the reward. The bulk of the plot concerns the efforts of the undead Georgie to stay hidden, Dwayne to stay un-implicated, the delicate sheriff Vogel (John Malkovitch) to figure out what is happening, and wildcard Derby to get his parcel, no matter whom he has to kill.
The movie is not wholly bad, but it really isn’t very good. It retreads ground covered much better by the Coen Brothers in 1998’s Fargo, where the quirkiness felt much more natural. Here, everything feels forced, and it is not helped by a wooden performance from Liam Hemsworth, whose expression barely moves from what his own character describes as “bothered”. Malkovitch and Thornton are given far too little to do, and only a cameo from Oliver Platt brings any humour. Add to this an ending that just doesn’t ring true, and the result is a northern waste.