South Louisiana in the 80’s, we’re told in the film’s opening voice-over, was ”hell with the lid off.” Whether it was a screw-top lid is not mentioned. Maybe a canning jar, maybe not. Perhaps a pop-top?
In the crime drama “Bad Country,” Willem Dafoe plays Bud Carter, a police detective who arrests a contract killer named Jesse Weiland, played by Matt Dillon. Because of his wife (Amy Smart) and new-born son, Jesse is convinced to collect evidence against the powerful organization, led by Lutin (Tom Berenger) and his right-hand man, a slimy attorney (Neal McDonough). When Lutin’s gang comes looking for revenge, Carter and Weiland have to team up to put the lid back on the criminal empire before they become victims themselves.
This is a pretty standard-issue gray side of the law actioner, buoyed by committed central performances by Dafoe and Dillon (though Dillon easily wins the facial hair competition). They are really better than the script deserves, but their intensity is offset by a pudgy, misjudged performance by Berenger, sporting a dandyish goatee swiped from Col. Sanders, and a mush-mouthed N’awlins accent that wouldn’t be out of place in a Popeye’s commercial.
Smart-aleck criticism aside, this was producer Chris Brinker’s (“The Boondock Saints”) first directorial effort, and he shows some skill with the brooding atmosphere, and an eye for charging predictable situations with a little extra zing. Sadly, he died suddenly at age 42 during the film’s post-production (of an aortic aneurysm) and did not see the finished film.
The film also sports several extended shootouts that move the camera around in a fashion that at least simulates excitement, while honoring the time-honored movie convention of poor marksmanship by bad guys and one-shot, one-kill accuracy by good guys. The film’s difficult production history is hinted at by a list of no less than four story credits, eleven executive producer credits and six producer credits. The resulting script by Jonathan Hirschbein struggles and fails to rise above that certain anonymous quality, possibly a by-product of too-many-cooks syndrome.
The filmmakers never find much to connect with in the 80’s-era setting or southern locale, but the film moves along at a respectable clip, never dwelling too much on any one thing, and leaning heavily on the energy of Dafoe and Dillon. Its boiler-plate shortcomings kind of slide right off in unobjectionable, pleasantly forgettable fashion, like a greasy po-boy sandwich on a twenty-minute lunch break. As soon as you’re done, it’s time to move on.
The Blu-ray of “Bad Country” is presented in 1080p High Definition, in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There is nothing particularly noteworthy or objectionable in the disc, though the night scenes did seem to have a nicely moody hue to them. There are options for subtitle in English, French, and English SDH.
The audio track is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option for a French-language track in 5.1 Dolby Digital.
- a set of deleted scenes, a couple of which would have been right at home in the finished film
- “Taking Down An Empire” a behind-the-scenes featurette, with interviews with director Chris Brinker and several cast members, though not Matt Dillon.
Fans of Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and hefty moustaches will find a lot to enjoy in “Bad Country”, but they’re the best part of this routine crime drama, directed by the late Chris Brinker, producer of the cult favorite “Boondock Saints.”