1 item from 1998
TriStar's "Homegrown", which opened in Seattle and surrounding areas last weekend, is a surprisingly good comedy caper set in California's woodsy Humboldt County, where local cultivators of marijuana plants hire adventuresome types to guard and tend their multimillion-dollar crops on secret "plantations."
With a trio of hot actors -- Billy Bob Thornton, Hank Azaria and Ryan Phillippe -- as the grungy leads and a sharp, believable script co-written by director Stephen Gyllenhaal ("Losing Isaiah") and Nicholas Kazan based on a story by Gyllenhaal and Jonah Raskin, "Homegrown" should cultivate a sizable following in urban situations and harvest more fans when it lights up in the cable and video markets.
Not at all silly or slapstick in the tradition of past "stoner" films but not overly violent or judgmental in the fashion of downer drug movies, "Homegrown" is more akin in ambition to such classics as "The Killing" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."
This approach works most of the time, with humor arising from the earthy characters and the paranoid milieu providing a steady increase of tension with nifty payoffs. There's sex, violence and rock 'n' roll, but the modestly budgeted project also has many choice lines and offbeat moments that keep one intrigued and entertained even through a few rough spots.
With insight into the ins and outs of making a big deal, matter-of-fact details about "trimming" and bagging the "buds" for transport and sale, and evocative sequences of guarding the potent product in rainy, secluded outposts, "Homegrown" is a sometimes startling look at a mysterious subculture that combines 1960s "radical" values of preserving the land and getting high all the time with 1990s-style greed and erosion of morals.
The film opens with the shocking murder of longtime "grower" Malcolm (John Lithgow) near his ranch, witnessed by his hired hands Jack (Thornton), Carter (Azaria) and Harlan (Phillippe). The nervous trio expect the worst, but the illegal crop worth millions is strangely left untouched.
They decide to cut down a few dozen plants and leave for town in a hurry, where Carter's sometime girlfriend Lucy (Kelly Lynch) takes them in. A regular "packager" for Malcolm, Lucy agrees to help the guys when Jack lies about who the pot belongs to and why it's being sold.
A charade ensues, with Jack covering up Malcolm's disappearance by partially assuming his identity and returning phone calls. There is a central mystery -- who had Malcolm killed? -- that baffles and worries the three, but they go ahead with a plan to harvest the whole farm and almost get away with it.
The strong supporting cast includes Jon Bon Jovi as a slick "buyer," Jon Tenney as a vicious assassin who terrorizes the principals in a wild sequence, Judge Reinhold as a corrupt sheriff and Jamie Lee Curtis as the regal, cagey leader of the entrenched regional entrepreneurs.
In association with Lakeshore Entertainment
A Rollercoaster Films production
Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal
Producer: Jason Clark
Screenwriters: Nicholas Kazan,
Executive producers: Tom Rosenberg,
Director of photography: Greg Gardiner
Production designer: Richard Sherman
Editor: Michael Jablow
Costume designer: Joseph Porro
Music: Trevor Rabin
Casting: Linda Lowy, John Brace
Jack: Billy Bob Thornton
Carter: Hank Azaria
Harlan: Ryan Phillippe
Lucy: Kelly Lynch
Malcolm/Robert: John Lithgow
Danny: Jon Bon Jovi
Running time -- 98 minutes
MPAA rating: R
1 item from 1998
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