EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a capsule review. The full review will be released once the film hits theatres.
It speaks to the conceptual issues facing Cut Bank that, even if it didn’t feature Coen brothers actors Michael Stuhlbarg and Billy Bob Thornton, and the latter hadn’t recently starred in 2014’s Fargo TV series (which director Matt Shakman helmed two episodes of), it would still play like a bad imitation of Coen small time crime. Making the jump from TV along with first-time feature writer Roberto Patino, Cut Bank is rife with screenwriting 101 plot points: fake bullets, an implausible get-rich quick scheme, and hokey small town stereotypes are all present and accounted for.
Liam Hemsworth stars as a Montana mechanic who gets himself into a fix involving a murdered mailman (Bruce Dern, having more fun than you will) and a missing parcel. As a pretty blank face, Hemsworth is mighty convincing; when the switch flips that calls for him to be a double-dealing tough guy, he’s not. John Malkovich is amusing as a shit-kicker sheriff with a weak stomach, and Billy Bob Thornton spends most of his scenes chewing up Hemsworth, which is good for some mileage.
And with Stuhlbarg present as a psycho, Boo Radley-esque local boogeyman, Cut Bank isn’t wanting for strong character actors to make its thinly drawn characters watchable. There’s just no real flavor to the proceedings, as the beat sheet plot is accompanied by cornball dialogue that’s mostly a collection of “sir” and “mam” colloquialisms. If it be fated that every state eventually gets a Fargo knockoff to call its own, Montana will be disappointed that their’s turned out to be as bloodless as Cut Bank.
Even without all the Coen players around to engender unfavourable comparisons, Cut Bank would still be a forgettable flyover state crime caper.