'Bad Country' Review: Willem Dafoe, Matt

Willem Dafoe and Matt Dillon anchor this blandly constructed crime thriller set in 1983 Louisiana.

A hardened cop and a desperate crook form an unlikely alliance that helps bring down an organized crime syndicate in “Bad Country,” a blandly executed action-thriller whose cast names (Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe) and mild ’80s Louisiana flavor offer only modest compensations for the story’s workmanlike construction and routine twists. Opening for a brief theatrical run on April 11, this first and final directorial effort by “The Boondock Saints” producer Chris Brinker — who died of an aortic aneurysm last year, while the film (then titled “Whiskey Bay”) was still in post-production — feels like home-viewing fodder through and through, and should rack up a few downloads on the basis of its top-billed duo.

The loosely fact-inspired story (credited to four writers including Jonathan Hirschbein, who wrote the screenplay) begins in 1983 south Louisiana, also known as “hell with the lid off,” in the cynical parlance of Det. Lt. Bud Carter (Dafoe, sporting quite a mustache). Following a bloody trail of theft, smuggling, extortion and murder, Carter collars two low-level crooks and applies enough pressure in the interrogation room that they rat out their much tougher superior, Jesse Weiland (Dillon, also sporting quite a mustache), a contract killer. But for a number of reasons — chief among them the welfare of his wife (Amy Smart) and newborn son — Weiland has run out of options and, rather than face a lifetime in prison, reluctantly decides to turn police informant.

The rest of “Bad Country” chronicles the not-terribly-exciting fallout of Weiland’s actions, as he attempts to ingratiate himself with crime boss Lutin Adams (Tom Berenger) and get his hands on the syndicate’s top-secret list of assassination targets. Naturally, it’s not long before Carter’s name winds up on that list, just as it’s only a matter of time before Weiland blows his cover, no matter how careful he is to avoid incurring the suspicion of his crooked higher-ups. As the pic progresses from one indifferently staged shootout to the next (the image quality and editing rhythms degrading rapidly with each fresh burst of action), scenes that should crackle with tension instead feel rote and predictable — a feeling borne out by the presence of stock characters such as a corrupt attorney (Neal McDonough) or an officious, meddlesome FBI agent (Christopher Marquette).

The picture doesn’t seem particularly interested in exploiting the potential chemistry between Dafoe and Dillon, both of whom bring what conviction and authority they can to roles that seem to have been engineered with no particular actors in mind. Tech credits are OK.

Film Review: 'Bad Country'

Reviewed on DVD, Pasadena, Calif., April 10, 2014. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 104 MIN.

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a CB Prods., ANA Media and Mandalay Vision Prod. presentation in association with Wilmor Entertainment. Produced by Chris Brinker, Jim Crabbe, Matthew Rhodes, Scott Einbinder, Nancy Green-Keyes, Kevin Chapman. Executive producers, Bud Connor, Mike Barnett, Jeff Steen, Mike Brinker, Justin Bursch, Patrick Newall, Don Yesso, Don Carmody, David Krintzman, Cole Hauser, Jonah Loop. Co-producer, Mike Quintana.

Crew

Directed by Chris Brinker. Screenplay, Jonathan Hirschbein; story, Mike Barnett, Bud Connor, Tom Abernathy, Hirschbein. Camera (color, HD), Zoran Popovic; editor, Michael J. Duthie; music, Jeff Danna, John Fee; music supervisor, Joe Paganelli; production designer, Tom Lisowski; set decorator, Monique Champagne; costume designer, Mary E. McLeod; sound (Dolby Digital), Richard Schexnayder, Nolan LaBlanc; supervising sound mixers, John W. Frost, Patrick O. Bird; sound designers, Eric J. Stolz, Dave West; re-recording mixer, Frost; special effects supervisor, Steve Riley; visual effects supervisor, Jonah Loop; visual effects, Loop Films; stunt coordinator/action director, Ron Yuan; stunt co-coordinators/fight choreographers, James Lew, Mike Wilson; line producer, Charles Rapp; associate producers, Michael J. Duthie, Steve Riley, Robert Lewis, Abernathy; assistant director, Craig Borden; second unit camera, Jesse Brunt; casting, Nancy Green-Keyes, Matthew Barry.

With

Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe, Neal McDonough, Amy Smart, Chris Marquette, Don Yesso, Kevin Chapman, Bill Duke, Tom Berenger, Christopher Denham, Alex Solowitz, John Edward Lee, Ritchie Montgomery, Frederick Weller, Patrick Brinker, Jeff Leaf.

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