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Thursday, January 8, 2015

BAD TURN WORSE -- DVD review by Porfle

It's nice when a modest thriller that doesn't look like it's going to amount to much at first gradually keeps getting better and better. That's what happened when I watched BAD TURN WORSE (2013), a tense tale of modern-day rural Texas that comes in like a lamb and goes out like--well, like a lamb, but one with rabies or distemper or something.

That is to say it never really turns kick-ass or anything, but it sure gets better than the dumb post-titles scene in which college-bound teens Sue (Mackenzie Davis) and Bobby (Jeremy Allen White, MOVIE 43) are sitting in Whataburger having yet another of those wannabe "Royale With Cheese"-type conversations, this time about how biscuits and gravy should be called "biscuit and gravy" since there's only one biscuit cut into two halves, and how ham and eggs should be called "ham and egg" if there's only one egg involved.

As horrible as this sounds, I later realized that the reason these characters are talking this way is that they're just ordinary people who truly aren't particularly clever or sharp-witted. Their gab tends to be drab. Like their lives.

But all that's about to change because right before the titles, we saw the third member of their little clique, B.J. (Logan Huffman), sneaking into his boss' office at the local cotton gin and stealing $20,000 (and a large handgun) from his safe. Bobby and Sue may be leaving town for bigger things, but the not quite so "book smart" B.J. ain't going anywhere so he has to make do with what he's stuck with, which currently means taking his girlfriend and his best friend on a wild spending spree in Corpus Christi.

The trouble is, when they get back the boys find their highly-vexed boss Giff (Mark Pellegrino, NATIONAL TREASURE, THE BIG LEBOWSKI) torturing the night watchman whom he suspects of stealing his twenty grand. In short order, Bobby inexplicably confesses to the theft (thinking this will end the torture) after which Giff executes the night watchman and then orders B.J. and Bobby to make good by stealing a much bigger bundle from underworld boss Big Red (William Devane), to whom Giff himself owes a burdensome debt. Otherwise, Giff will kill B.J., Bobby, and Sue, and, from what we've seen of him so far, enjoy doing it.

This pretty much sets up what happens for the rest of the movie, except that B.J.--that unpredictable, impulsive, emotionally unstable rascal with the impulse-control problem--finds out that best friend Bobby and girlfriend Sue are having an affair, which they plan to continue after leaving for college. For B.J., this calls for some scary changes in the plans for the daring heist against Big Red, changes only B.J. will know about until things have turned potentially deadly.

But how far will he go? With Jeremy Allen White and Mackenzie Davis proving adequate but unexceptional in their roles, it's Logan Huffman as B.J. who emerges as the one to watch here. In fact, he's pretty much the other shoe we keep expecting to drop throughout the film.

There's a scene midway through in which the troubled teen turns up unexpectedly in Sue's bedroom which finally makes clear how effectively Huffman is getting into this role and how deftly first-time feature scripter Dutch Southern has written it.

With coolly suppressed petulance and an underlying menace the resentful B.J. lets Sue know that he knows about you-know-what without saying so, making her squirm while threatening to explode at any second. But he's saving it all for the cold-dish revenge which will come on the night of the robbery. Little does he know, however, just how truly messed up that's going to turn out for all concerned, including himself.

Mark Pellegrino turns in a fairly good performance as Griff although his character as written isn't nearly as intimidating as he should've been. Jon Gries of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and GET SHORTY (he played Delroy Lindo's slow-on-the-draw sidekick) makes a welcome appearance as the town's corrupt sheriff, along with the great William Devane in an all-too-brief cameo as Big Red. The rest of the cast is well up to par, as is the film's above-average direction by brothers Simon and Zeke Hawkins making their feature debut after years of specializing in short films.

The Anchor Bay/Starz DVD is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. There are no extras.

BAD TURN WORSE wants to be one of those twisty-turny thrillers that keeps us constantly off-guard and pulls the rug out from under our feet at the end. It succeeds at this in a small way with a few satisfying surprises but never really blows us away. I didn't mind. Rather than weaving a dazzlingly complex web, it carries us along a straightforward path to a climax that neither exhilarates nor disappoints, but entertains. I was glad to go along for the ride.

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