A former rodeo star, with a small time life, unknowingly starts a rapport with a young man who is responsible for the violence that has suddenly gripped his small town. Every character from his loved ones to his business patrons, plays a part in the unravelling of this community. Our aged hero must face his relationships of past and present to come up against this unpredictable predator.
Problem with small towns is everybody leaves 'em. Thus small town stories tend to be based on romanticized memories (be it good or bad) from the point of city slickers. And since most folks reside in giant metropolises, it becomes difficult to pronounce judgement on this evaporating way of life.
Sweet Virginia is one such film beast. It is both good and bad. A good film, about bad people, but chiefly it is about America.
Set in murky Alaska, but filled with soft, southern accented characters, it takes place in a tiny, forgotten place, where people struggle for money, hide their histories, wear baseball caps, drive pickups, move at a snail's pace, and settle their matters in a violent fashion.
At the centre of a nifty noire tangle is an uncomfortable buddy-buddy relationship between an aw-shucks former rodeo star trying unsuccessfully to live a low-key life as a motel owner, and a troubled, snaky hit man. Jon Bernthal is terrific as the reluctant good guy, who innocently befriends the dark stranger in town - a perfectly tense and edgy Christopher Abbott. We know this won't end well, but that is not the point. This is less about the resolution and more about the journey.
"Sweet Virginia" dares to peek under the covers of a sleepy place rampant with familiarity but teeming with excruciating loneliness. One that usually keeps it's secrets well buried. Usually.
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