Cut Bank – A solid neo-noir with some great performances
Written by: Roberto Patino
Directed by: Matt Shakman
In director Matt Shakman’s debut film “Cut Bank” (named for the small Montana town that it takes place in), the story centers on a young couple Dwayne (Hemsworth) and Cassandra (Palmer). They dream of leaving Cut Bank, Cassandra’s overbearing father (Thornton), and small town boredom for a big city out west. When they catch the murder of a local mail man (Dern), they discover that the reward for evidence of the killing of a federal employee could set them up for life. Enter Sheriff Vogel (Malkovich as awesome as always), a weak-stomached, life long Cut Bank-er who cannot stand the sight of blood.
A postal service inspector (Platt) shows up, and says that he will need a body if he is to issue a reward so the investigation is on. Twists and turns occur, suspicions increase (as does the body count), and even the local recluse Derby Milton (Stuhlbarg in an incredible performance) begins putting pieces together for his own reasons. In a town where everybody is a little off, seemingly everyone is also more guilty than they appear.
Okay… Bring on the cries of “Fargo” and “Twin Peaks”. Everyone else has hammered on that, so why shouldn’t I? Oh yeah! Because, I actually really liked this movie. Yes, it is similar in style and story to the aforementioned films, but if you take “Cut Bank” as it is, it is a solid neo-noir with some great performances. John Malkovich is wonderfully dry and equally timid, and Bruce Dern steals every scene he is in as a crusty old curmudgeon with a wicked tongue. Michael Stuhlbarg is probably the best part of the movie. His stuttering, coke bottle glasses wearing, recluse is infinitely unsettling (especially when he goes ultra-violent on people who get in his way).
The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Ben Richardson . The small town aesthetic is just enough in the background of the movie that it doesn’t BECOME the movie. This allows for the immensely talented actors to do their thing and bring the script (written by “Sons of Anarchy’s Roberto Patino) to life.
This film will have a lot of critics crying foul at the likeness to great films by Hollywood icons such as the Coen brothers. The only criticisms I have are of Liam Hemsworth’s performance which I just couldn’t accept as the leading role of the film. He just seemed to be punching way above his weight, in the midst of so many accomplished actors. And, yes, the “Aha” moment comes very early in the movie but I didn’t mind that so much. Just go along for the ride and “Cut Bank” ,while not the stuff of legend, is a pretty damn good film.