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Small Town Murder Songs
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Reviewed on 2011-06-10
Received[2.5]  out of 4 stars
GenreCrime / Thriller
This police procedural from Toronto writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly is set in a small rural community in northern Ontario. Chief Walter Rudin (Peter Stormare from “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski”), is called to the scene of the town’s first murder by his deputy, Jim (Aaron Poole). The body of an unidentified naked girl appears to have been dumped at a local landfill. Detective Dave Washington (Ari Cohen) from the nearest state police office oversees and directs the case.

While the criminal investigation is the main focus, this is also a character study of Walter. The opening scene shows Walter being baptized in a swimming pool by the local deacon. There is an intensity in Walter’s eyes that hides his quick temper. Brief flashbacks are shown of Walter’s violent past. The police chief seeks redemption for his tortured soul and seems to be on the right path with his girlfriend Sam (Martha Plimpton from “Raising Hope” and “Fringe”), a waitress at a local diner.

The main suspect is the menacing and creepy Steve (Stephen Eric McIntyre), who is the current white-trash boyfriend of Rita (Jill Hennessy from “Crossing Jordan” and “Law& Order”). This complicates matters because Walter had a serious affair with Rita and she views his intrusion into her new relationship as being personal.

The movie is broken up into four chapters inspired by the New Testament. A soundtrack of loud music with a screaming chorus imitating the wrath of God is provided by the indie gospel rock group Bruce Peninsula.

Stormare’s performance towers over the flimsy story. In one scene, he is saying grace before a meal in a quiet and controlled manner, then a burst of explosive rage surprises Sam and catches the audience off guard. The screenplay masterfully provides a stark contrast between Sam as the blonde good Christian and Rita as the sexually enticing dark-haired ex-lover. Hennessy makes the most of her limited screen time. Plimpton exhibits a strong Canadian accent in a very natural performance of a spiritually driven human being with sound moral behavior.

Besides the effective ensemble acting, another asset is the outstanding cinematography. This captivatingly haunting crime drama never gets tiresome and knows when to bring the curtain down after a 76-minute running time.

This low-budget indie premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Some of the dialogue spoken by the Mennonites is in Pennsylvania Dutch, a German dialect, with English subtitles. Opening exclusively at the Glenwood Arts.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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