Friday, November 10, 2023

The Dirty South: Movie Review

Slow but compelling tale of dirty criminals in Louisiana.
Set and filmed in Louisiana, The Dirty South is a tale of a small town populated by criminals. It’s a very brown and gray movie, everybody except one family is dirt poor, almost every scene takes place at night so it’s consistently darkly lit. It’s a premise you’ve seen before, and the beginning is slow and dark, but there’s also a humanity to these characters and an almost hidden sense of style that can keep audiences watching.   2023

Directed by: Matthew Yerby

Screenplay by: Matthew Yerby

Starring: Willa Holland, Dermot Mulroney and Shane West

I tuned in because of Dermott Mulroney, an actor I wasn’t expecting to see in a movie of this ilk, but one quick glance at his filmography and it’s obvious I just wasn’t paying attention. It appears he has found a home in low-budget action crime dramas in recent years. Here he plays Jeb, the patriarch of the rich family, a guy who can charm or sleaze his way into whatever he wants. A character that fits Mulroney like a glove.

Willa Holland stars as Sue. The daughter of the town drunk and the older sister of the only innocent character in the entire town and movie. Her father, a drunk, broke, abusive asshole, owns a dive bar which becomes Sue’s responsibility to manage on a daily basis. She often has to resort to less than legal methods to keep it open.

The movie appears to start going when two new characters arrive. Mark is Jeb’s son, Sue’s high school boyfriend, and a recent Princeton graduate returning to his dirty hometown. And Dion, a full-time criminal who hops from town to town committing petty theft and leaving girls in the dust. Unclear if it’s to the film’s detriment and benefit that it doesn’t pick up at this point. While there is a little action when Sue joins Dion on his crime spree, it remains a slow-moving story about very little as Sue’s dad is still a belligerent drunk, Jeb is still a sleazy rich guy who pops up to remind us he exists, and Mark is still a quiet guy who just wants to say hi to Sue. Each character ends up playing a pivotal role in the final resolution.

It's set during Christmas with a festival of lights happening in town. The local radio announcer keeps mentioning it whenever somebody turns the car radio on and indeed there are shots of Christmas lights sprinkled throughout the movie. It does not appear to play any role, but it feels like it does, it adds an interesting style to keep the movie at least somewhat compelling.

By the end, the characters will draw you in even if the story isn’t all that interesting. While it definitely feels like it moves slow, the pacing ultimately fits the intriguing nature.