Sunday, May 19, 2024

End of the Rope: Movie Review

A western crime drama with a different historical flavour.
End of the Rope is a story about social justice, an historical crime thriller set during the early 1930s where the self-evident truth starts being at odds with the uncovered evidence and a community of desperate people starting to turn against their local law enforcement. It’s a low-budget independent feature telling a story arguably bigger than a film like this can handle.   2023

Directed by: Charlie Griak

Screenplay by: Daniel Bielinski, Charlie Griak
Based on the story by Dennis Johnson

Starring: Joseph Gray, Chris Bylsma

Shafer, North Dakota is currently a ghost town; all that remains is one city sign and a building which was the site of this true story. Back during the great depression, it was a community of farmers all striving for a better future, while some were optimistic and others were drinking and dancing their frustrations away, tragedy was striking. The town’s sheriff CA Jacobson (Joseph Gray) watches as his farm burns down killing his young daughters, an unfortunate accident by his farmhand Charles Bannon (Nick Saxton). Three years later, the town is in much worse shape than it was and without its sheriff, and another tragedy is taking shape in the form of a mystery.

The well-liked and respected Haven family has disappeared. Maybe. Charles is telling stories that they’ve just left town, other people are very worried and disturbed about this random vanishing, other people are assuming it’s nothing so they can just get on with their lives, eventually however, this town can’t ignore this disappearance and the likely tragic ending.

There are quite a few things this film does very well: establishing the setting is one of them. Filmed on location in North Dakota, it has captured not just the look of a dying town but the feel of a dying town – the down-trodden depression where some people just want to give up at odds with others who are trying to run the town the way a community is supposed to function. The latter is represented by Sam (Chris Bylsma) who is the state attorney and run’s the town’s post office.

While Sam is slowly building a case against Charles, CA Jacobson is finding that he has to take on the role of sheriff as his depression was starting to envelop himself and his wife. The rest of the town just wants justice, not some slow unsatisfying trial.

The film is also very good at building tension, arguably too good. The film is two hours and 19 minutes long, and most of it is tension-filled even when the story doesn’t seem to demand it. It’s backed up by an overly-dramatic score and a whole lot of unnecessary scenes which just bloat the movie. Even though the movie is too long, the pacing works, the atmosphere is impeccable and the story is interesting.

The historical importance doesn’t show up during the movie (this is a spoiler-free review so look it up if you're interested), perhaps a different telling would fit better. But for those that like crime thrillers with a side of historical drama, End of the Rope does offer something different. Especially with the popularity of true crime stories and social media justice filling in when legal justice fails, this film fits in well in today’s world.