Family is a funny concept – especially when one relies on another to make sure of each other’s survival. And it can be just as treacherous when a black sheep comes home to graze. Based loosely on a real-life account of the Munn family, a dirt poor Georgia farming clan made up of well-meaning yet struggling widower John (Dermot Mulroney) and his two young boys Chris (Jamie Bell a long way from “Billy Elliot”) and Tim (Devon Alan) are proving to be a handful with the eldest one getting into troubles like young boys do (throwing a rock through a would-be girlfriend’s window) and other forms of dealing with grief (Tim has an oral fixation that includes drinking paint and eating mud). But that all pales in comparison when John’s long-lost ne’er do well brother Deel (Josh Lucas in redneck facial hair and resembling Matthew McConaughey on a bender) drops unexpectedly in from his recent stay in the state pen.
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Deel is up to no-good from the get-go yet manages to infiltrate the family’s trust when John reluctantly allows him to stay only expecting him to keep his share of the chores and look on the boys from time to time. fmovies Deel has other plans, namely not getting over the fact John’ s widow – and Deel’s girlfriend – chose his brother over him and that their late father’s small fortune of golden coins are hidden somewhere on the premises. It doesn’t take long for Deel to show his true colors (hint-hint: blood red). The boys are on to Deel and hightail it through the backwoods relying on their instincts and hard work to make a day-by-day attempt to stay out of Deel’s nasty reaches with their grandfather’s loot in pursuit of a better life. What follows is a thinly-veiled storyline from the great Robert Mitchum lurid thriller “Night of the Hunter” that eventually runs out of steam but for the most part keeps the juices jumping.
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David Gordon Green (All The Real Girls) in his junior effort behind the camera elicits Faulkner overtones with some echoes of producer Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” yet allows some gentle humor, seemingly improvised moments with local yokels (it seems many are unprofessional actors and were hired to provided some authentic color to the film) and a few freeze frame endings to sequences yet also indulges in too many meandering sequences particularly during the boys’ plight and pursual by their madman uncle hell-bent on homicide and larceny. Equally maddening is Philip Glass’ overwrought music that only induces some headache worthy machinations. Collaborating with a script by Joe Conway based on a story by Lingard Jervey, Green captures the podunk surrounding nicely and allows a few moments for Bell’s and Lucas’ acting chops to stretch in the limits of their roles yet on the whole the film has the cheapie ’70s feel of an American-International exploitation flick (even the bargain basement opening credits look cheesy). Ultimately it’s memorable in only invoking a superior thriller – the aforementioned “Hunter’ – that should be viewed again on what building suspense is truly all about.