When you see a film with a cast like Robin Wright, Billy Bob Thornton, Jackie Earle Haley and Hopper Penn, you can’t help be get a little excited. After all, three of them have Oscar and Emmy nominations. And the fourth is a hot up and comer with a bright future ahead of him. Unfortunately, not all films with great casts are good, and Devil’s Peak doesn’t quite reach it’s potential either.
Devil’s Peak takes place in the mountains of North Carolina, where eighteen-year-old Jacob McNeely (Penn) works at his father’s garage. He’s in love with a local girl and wants nothing more than to spend the rest of his life with her. Unfortunately for him however, his name precedes him and her parents don’t approve of him. After all his father Charlie (Thornton) is a meth-dealing kingpin with violent tendencies. Charlie is the kind of guy who tends to draw the wrong kind of attention. Jacob eventually comes up with a plan to run away with his girlfriend and start their life together someplace else. But in order to do that he needs to steal from his father and not get caught, which he finds to be easier said than done.
On paper, Devil’s Peak looks like it could be a great movie, but unfortunately it never finds its footing. At times it feels like it could be a North Carolina version of Romeo & Juliet, but the movie decides to skip that path. It could have decided it wanted to be a movie about kid trying to get out from under his kingpin dad’s shadow. Sadly, it skips that possibility as well and has Jacob simply wanting to run away from it all. Instead the film feels like a shadow of the much better film Winter’s Bone, without the culture and great story.
Thornton plays the film’s heavy, yet he doesn’t feel all that threatening. Wright is in the film but barely, wasting her talent and the opportunity to help boost her real life son’s screen presence. As for Penn, he constantly looks like he’s upset and confused. He hardly speaks in the film, and hardly has any presence at all. This is not the way the lead of a film should be, because if the lead falls flat, so does the whole enjoyment of the film. Of course none of these things are the problems of the actors. The problem was they just didn’t have anything to work with. The script needed to be fixed before this film was even made.
Of course the main question is this, does the bad script make Devil’s Peak a bad film? No, it doesn’t, but it could have been so much better. It had the atmosphere and the potential, which is why it’s so disappointing. Perhaps the novel the film is based on, Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy, is much better. Perhaps it flushes out the story more, and gives the characters more depth instead of being flat and two dimensional. As it stands however, it’s not something most people will remember after spending a couple of hours watching it.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Crime, Thriller
- Directed by: Ben Young
- Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Emma Booth, Hopper Penn, Jackie Earle Haley, Katelyn Nacon, Robin Wright
- Produced by: Griff Furst, Jamie Hilton, Josh Kesselman, Nathan Klingher, Robert Knott, Robin Wright, Ryan Donnell Smith, Ryan Winterstern, Sterling Griffin
- Written by: David Joy, Robert Knott
- Studio: Curmudgeon Films, Thruline Entertainment
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