It’s the sort of West Texas city you’ve seen in a thousand motion pictures — not simply tranquil however barren, stock-still, an actual desolation row, like a postcard that will or could not comprise residing issues. Michael Shannon, as a neighborhood police chief, explains that it’s the form of small city that folks as soon as considered quaint: one financial institution, one pizza place, and so forth. Besides that “The Quarry” is a kind of bone-dry minimalist dramas during which it’s laborious to say whether or not it’s the city that’s so sparse, arid, and immobile or just the movie itself. Why is it that solely 5 individuals appear to stay there, and that they occur to be the one 5 characters within the film? “The Quarry” is so diagrammed that it makes use of its undernourished dark-side-of-the-heartland ambiance to excuse the truth that nothing of observe is actually happening.
Shea Whigham, who is usually a zesty character actor (in motion pictures like “American Hustle,” “First Man,” and “Joker”), right here hollows himself right into a strolling existential husk to play a person who isn’t named: some obscure felony on the run, who at a roadside diner meets Daniel Martin (Bruno Bichir), a broken-down Mexican-born reverend who guzzles purple wine as he drives his van, heading for that city, the place he has obtained an appointment to steer the native church. By his drunken haze, he can sense that Whigham’s tense, hungry vagabond is as much as no good. And that seals his destiny — he’s quickly mendacity face down in a desert quarry, killed by shards of glass in his neck.
Is our antihero a chilly psychopath, or only a determined opportunist who has run out of choices? Both method, he jumps into the van and steals his sufferer’s identification, displaying up on the town to cover out as a person of the fabric.
It sounds just like the set-up for a movie noir from the late ’50s, however one of many beauties of fine noir was the best way that it discovered pleasure in depravity. “The Quarry,” with its stoic sinner who’s out for redemption (or one thing), is extra like Robert Duvall’s “The Apostle” remade as a draggy, reductive TV-movie. I’ve seen one different movie by the director Scott Teems that I favored — the Tennessee household drama “That Night Solar” (2009) — however this time, as a substitute of telling a juicy story, he cobbles collectively a darkish schematic allegory with woke grace notes about border-town race relations. The movie is predicated on a novel by the South African author Damon Galgut, however the ebook was rooted in its South African setting. By transplanting it to a moderately summary model of the American South, Teems drains many of the life out of it.
Along with Whigham, who appears to be like like a really dour model of Jason Bateman however talks right here within the grave low tones of Sam Elliott, “The Quarry” options Michael Shannon doing his customary grumpy hard-ass quantity because the city officer, who’s having an affair with the saintly morose Celia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), who runs the home during which a room is given to the reverend. If that sounds all too conveniently insular, do this: On his first night time there, Whigham’s belongings — that are actually the property of the person he killed — are stolen out of his van by Valentin (Bobby Soto), the city’s pot-dealing delinquent, and his 12-year-old protégé, Poco (Alvaro Martinez). They occur to be Celia’s cousins.
The 2 now they’ve the proof, together with a sprig of purple wildflowers from the quarry, that factors to what Whigham did. But not one of the dramatic hugger-mugger you’re anticipating involves go. The reverend-who’s-really-a-criminal and Moreno’s light misplaced soul, who he strikes up a reference to, don’t fall into mattress. Shannon’s Chief Moore doesn’t tail Whigham like Columbo and put the clues of the homicide collectively one purple wildflower at a time. It’s his inclination to pin crime on individuals of coloration, even when the proof factors elsewhere.
“You’re not an enormous smiler, are ya?” says Shannon to Whigham. No, he’s not. Then once more, “The Quarry” is a kind of motion pictures during which nobody actually smiles or does quite a bit to muster their method out of the glumness. The movie’s central hook is that Whigham’s reverend, standing up in his boxy plain church, preaching in only disguised code about his personal sin, strikes a chord among the many members of his poor, largely Mexican-American congregation. They’ll inform that he’s as fallen as they’re, and so they reply. However not in a method that permits any of them to turn out to be an attention-grabbing character. In “The Quarry,” sin has its wages, however that’s all it has. It’s too dry to supply something like temptation.