You would think that after No Country For Old Men filmmakers would just give up on neo – noirs set in the desolate wastes of the American south but this year we had Joe, Cold in July, Hellion and to be honest pretty much the whole Edinburgh Film Fest ‘American Dreams’ strand. We Gotta Get Out of This Place was a film of similar ilk, focusing upon 3 friends at a crossroads of life being pulled into the back – stabbing, explosively violent crime world of a cotton farmer and notorious local gangster ‘ Big Red’.
Part of the initial appeal of in the film lies in its teen relationships, focusing upon Sue (Mckenzie Davis), B.J (Logan Huffman) and Bobby (Jeremy Allen White), long – time friends set to go separate ways in their new lives at college, that is apart from B.J. After stealing £20,000 from a ruthless boss played by Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Being Human) to fund a lavish going away party, B.J inadvertently drags the straighter characters into an insidious debt repayment – which combined with infidelity, betrayal and violence – makes for a delectable slice of neo noir.
Directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins, keep writer Dutch Sothern’s material as grounded as possible, with the characters interactions and motivations seeming believable and barely overstepping the mark into melodrama. Adding in the obligatory shots of the sweeping plains of Texas and dilapidated interiors, the Hawkins bros create an atmosphere that fits with the films themes of isolation and claustrophobia, with stand – out performances from Mark Pellegrino relishing in villainous monologues and B.J possessing the combination of charm and subdued menace that recalls the earlier roles of James Franco. While mostly traditional in its style, the film occasionally showcases interesting dynamics in a 1st person vision of ‘the perfect heist’ which bears a pragmatic function while also injecting a shot of welcome Tarantino-esque self – awareness to the narrative.
However, perhaps the decisive element of We Gotta Get Out of This Place returns me to my introduction – while an interesting take on an established genre, the film rarely brings anything new to table. Perhaps is this indicative of a post – Breaking Bad context where the American landscape has been visually and metaphorically milked dry of crime stories. While We Gotta Get of This Place maintains its strength through the love – triangle of the central three characters, the subsequent third act and finale is something that is predictable re trodden ground – even when screen veteran William Devane turns up as ‘Big Red’. Perhaps Mark Pellegrino’s characters surmises this best while deconstructing Big – Red’s persona, ridiculing his lack of originality in picking a gangster name (based on the fact he drives a big Red SUV).
We Got Get Out of This Place occasionally mocks and deconstructs its own genre dynamics but at its core, remains yet another Deep South neo – noir with violence, cowboy hats and the subsequent series of unfortunate events that always perspire. While originating from the similarly vacuous town of Sunderland really helped me identify with the characters predicament, I would unlikely seek this film out again. Yet, for fans of neo – noir, it should undoubtedly tick all the right buttons.
Directors: Simon Hawkins, Zeke Hawkins
Writer: Dutch Southern
Stars: Ashley Adams, Mackenzie Davis, William Devane
Runtime: 92 min