Sunday, October 18, 2020

A rare and much appreciated good B-movie: Christy/Brown/Sizemore's BLUE RIDGE

Surprisingly well-written and -acted, and directed with enough verve and intelligence to keep viewers watching, BLUE RIDGE turns out to be one of those rare finds among the countless B movies being released in these days of our current pandemic. It's smart and thoughtful and has a fleet and lovely grasp of everything from character to situation and setting -- the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains of Appalachia.

As directed by Michigan native Brent Christy and co-wrriten by Caleb G. Brown and Shea Sizemore, the movie is also that rare bird in today's let's-make-it-as-bloody-and-violent-as-possible context that deliberately chooses, as does the film's hero (the new-to-town sheriff played by Johnathon Schaech), to prevent that blood and violence from taking place. 

Director Christy (shown at right) knows how to create suspense without over-milking anything and he draws fine performances from every actor on screen, leads to smallest speaking parts. This is the best role Mr. Schaech (shown above and below) has had in some time, and he does a terrific job with everything from the action scenes to the abashed romantic moments. He is helped enormously by the excellent script that draws character from quick, smart flashes of dialog that are often witty, charming or nasty -- as needed -- and never over-does anything. The exposition, too, is an integral part of the investigation here, as the screenplay allows our newcomer sheriff to learn things at the same time as does the audience.

The movie begins as the sheriff and his young daughter (he has taken this particular job in order to be in closer proximity to that daughter and to his estranged-but-still-loving wife) make a quick stop at a local convenience store only to find that something is going wrong there. The film's biggest coincidence -- fortunately, it's one that comes at the beginning so it's over with quickly -- is that this sleepy little town has two major criminal events happen on the same day. But even this comes together nicely via the smart screenplay by the film's finale.

The clever, off-the-cuff dialog is most apparent between the sheriff's two friendly-feuding deputies (Ben Esler and Lara Silva, above, left and right respectively) and his wife and daughter (Sarah Lancaster and Taegen Burns, right and left, respectively, below). The former's are fun and funny, the latter's more emotional, and both are always brief and believable.

Supporting cast includes some fine actors giving their brief scenes exactly the right oomph and gravitas: Graham Greene (below, seen earlier this week in the crappy horror film, Tar) plays the father of the first victim, 

while an excellent Tom Proctor (below) handles the role of the Greene character's major adversary with a resonant anger that's both surface and buried. This proves a kind of local Hatfield/Mc Coy situation, and it's the major thing that our sheriff must keep from exploding.

Even the husband of the initial victim is written and portrayed (by Kevin L. Johnson, below) with enough trenchant and specific detail to make this guy register more strongly that you'd expect. The solution to the crimes is a surprise but one that, given the situation and information we've learned, makes good, sad sense.

TrustMovies does not want to overstate the case for Blue Ridge. It's nothing great, but as decent B-movies go, it's one of the better examples of late and should provide a good evening's entertainment without making you sorry you watched. The movie's a pleasure. And not at all a guilty one.

From Imagicomm Entertainment and running a just-right 88 minutes, the movie hits DVD and digital HD this Tuesday, October 20 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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