Review: Small Town Murder Songs (2010)

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Small Town Murder Songs (2010)

Directed by: Ed Gass-Donnelly | 75 minutes | thriller, crime | Actors: Peter Stormare, Aaron Poole, Martha Plimpton, Jill Hennessy, Vladimir Bondarenko, Stephen Eric McIntyre, Ari Cohen, Trent McMullen, Erin Brandenburg, Kat Germain, Jessica Clement, Andrew Penner, Alan Penner, John Penner, Herm Dick, Alexandria Benoit Mark Snowdon, Timm Zemanek, Jackie Burroughs, Ann Holloway, Stuart Hughes, Alyssa Mariano, Heather Allin, John Stead, Sean Eaton, Colin Burrowes

‘Small Town Murder Songs’ starts classically, almost like ‘Twin Peaks’, David Lynch’s famous television series from the early 90s: we are in a small town in Canada with a wide landscape, where a dead young woman is found. The village is of course in turmoil, and police officer Walter (Peter Stormare, known from ‘Fargo’) is allowed to investigate.

However, Walter himself is not a saint. At first glance he is an exemplary and devout family man, but you soon sense that there is more going on under that stoic, mustachioed face. He attends church with a fanaticism especially seen in converts, and is thrown about with concerned remarks during confessional sessions. And then there are also frictions that remain between him and Steve (Stephen Eric McIntyre), the seedy troublemaker within the Mennonite community – as well as current partner of Rita (Jill Hennessy), who Walter has a past with again. Walter’s current partner is not reassured, even when a provincial, more authoritative agent soon arrives to direct the investigation into the rare crime for this area. Indeed, another similarity to ‘Twin Peaks’.

In addition to this schematic plot, there is a lot of room for the spiritual. For example, director Ed Gass-Donnelly occasionally uses a Bible quote as a motto, but it is the music in the film that grabs you so much that it deserves its own review. Canadian band Bruce Peninsula’s work is like a cross between a church choir, the commentary choir of a Greek tragedy and contemporary rock band, and each use makes you open your eyes and ears, sit a little further forward and your film just a little bit more. take in more.

The phenomenal music carries the film, but threatens to relegate the other elements present at times to filling in between the musical belches. This feeling creeps up on you more and more as the film progresses. The setting of the film makes one hope for something lyrical, mysterious and inimitable, but apart from an incomplete character study of Walter’s dark past, the plot of the film appears to be propelling increasingly conventional and predictable; the movie will be more ‘Law & Order’ than David Lynch. The murder is also surprisingly easily solved. At the same time, the use of that music, the raisins in the porridge, is also becoming less and less – or the silent interludes simply seem longer and longer. The excellent acting performances help with this, but can no longer lift the film to a higher level.

Now there’s nothing wrong with a good whodunnit, but the combination of the lyrical beginning and the plot that is increasingly easy to draw does lead to the conclusion that ‘Small Town Murder Songs’ does not quite live up to its potential, neither as a grim police movie, nor as an elusive mystery . What remains is a reasonable character study that will be remembered more for its soundtrack than the film it is intended for.

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