Greeting again from the darkness. It’s been (crudely) stated that one can pick their nose, but not their family. That sentiment has been the basis for many movies over the years, and it’s the driving force behind the latest from director Ben Young (HOUNDS OF LOVE, 2016) working from a script that Robert Knott (APPALOOSA, 2008) adapted from David Joy’s 2015 novel, “Where All Light Tends to Go”.

The film opens with a man frantically bounding from his truck to cock his rifle and aim down the road, clearly expecting trouble around the bend. Jacob (Hopper Penn) is the young man with the rifle, and also our narrator. The rest of the movie leads us back to this tense moment on the road. Jacob is the son of menacing Charlie (Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton), the local drug lord who deals the methamphetamine that has ruined so many lives in his area of Appalachian Mountains in rural North Carolina. Charlie rules with an iron fist and expects blind loyalty, especially from his son … which is a problem since Jacob is the sensitive type who wants nothing to do with the family business. Instead, he’s focused on Maggie (Katelyn Nacon), the college-bound daughter of a local politician (Brian d’Arcy James).

Charlie intimidates his much younger girlfriend Josephine (Emma Booth), pays the local sheriff (Jackie Earle Haley) to look the other way, and mostly ignores his ex-wife Virgie (Robin Wright), as she battles addiction and tries to give Jacob a chance at a better life. So what we have is a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ story in the middle of a “Justified” episode. Life is tough here, and most anyone would dream of leaving, but after he fails in a task assigned by his dad, and another tragedy strikes, Jacob decides he and Maggie must get out now. Of course, it can’t possibly be that easy … and Jacob finds out it’s not.

As far as I can tell, this is the first lead role for Hopper Penn, the real-life son of Robin Wright and Sean Penn, who is named after Dennis Hopper. He has a kind of young Adrien Brody look to him, and it will be interesting to see if this leads to more high-profile acting jobs. This movie has a good look to it, but the story doesn’t really offer anything new. However, it’s always a pleasure to watch Billy Bob Thornton turn evil, and Jackie Earle Haley play any role.

Opens on February 17, 2023


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