31 July 2011

Movies: Small Town Murder Songs

Small Town Murder Songs (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1429392/

Crime Drama.  Also billed as a thriller, but I'm not exactly sure what is considered 'thriller' about it.

Set in a small Mennonite community in Ontario, a young girl is murdered and dumped in a field. The local chief of police must deal with the sins of his past as he tries to solve the murder.
We meet the police chief, Walter, and find that his duties are pretty much those of any small town police - pull over the occasional speeder, putter about town, say "hi" to folks. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered. The Ontario Provisional Police come in and take over the investigation.

Stars Peter Stormare as police chief Walter. In all actuality - when I saw the title of the film, and saw that Stormare was the lead, I decided to watch the film. Seriously, that was enough for me.
Has a supporting cast of folks you may or may not recognize. It was kinda cool to see Martha Plimpton in it and immediately think "The Goonies", especially because we don't see her much. She does well in her role too.

The film isn't so much about the crime or solving it, that story line is there to bind everything else together.  The film is more about Walter. Walter's past. Walter's attempt to redefine his self. Walter's past and present relationships, and the impacts of his choices on his family and their interaction with him.

The casting and acting, no complaints. Stormare really nails his performance. The depth of the characterizations was fine and seemed to match with the importance those characters held in the story. Filmed and edited well, nice flashback integration to fill you in on Walter's past and its significance to the film.

The pacing seems a little slow, but that also plays into the sense of the small a farm community. The film is only about an hour and 10 minutes long. The pacing makes it feel a little bit longer, yet tells the stories in an economy of time that fits the story. They don't waste the time they use, yet the film doesn't feel hurried to its conclusion either.  I suppose that's why it doesn't feel so 'thriller'-like.

I also really liked the music of the film. Unfortunately the volume of the music is way loud in comparison to the mix of sound of the film around it. It jars you, it's over powering. I am thinking that's the intent of the filmmaker, but I felt it rather off-putting. Still, I liked the soundtrack. It really fits the film and matches its setting.


The film as a whole has a Coen-brothers feel to it. Sort of a "Miller's Crossing" and "Fargo" vibe and although it is not very like those films, "Fargo" is the closest match. I don't know if that's just coincidence that Peter Stormare was cast for Small Town Murder Songs and it has such a "Fargo" vibe or not.  Regardless, I could watch all three films on the same night and not feel that I saw the same movie twice. The Coen-brothers vibe is mentioned as a compliment, not as a complaint nor an attempt to say their style was copied.

I liked the film despite feeling slowly paced and a little loud on the soundtrack. Worth watching for the performances and story and being overall a good film.

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