Prairie Noir: A Review of ‘Big Muddy’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 29, 2015

Talent is such a darn tricky thing, it can come across your doorstep when you least expect and as a film critic sometimes you just have to make the time and give it the attention it so richly deserves.  With Big Muddy we witness birth to a genre that could best be described as ‘Prairie Noir’ and the feature debut of a burgeoning Canadian talent.

In the little Saskatchewan town of Big Muddy, everyone has a secret, each one the dirtier then the next one come home to roost.  Martha (Nadia Litz) has spent most of her adult days living off the grid with her teenage son Andy (Justin Kelly), getting by pulling cons with her boyfriend Tommy (Rossif Sutherland).  But it all goes wrong when conflict at the horse track results in Andy committing a horrible crime that forces Andy and Martha to go into hiding with her estranged father (Stephen McHattie).  When they get to her dad’s house, they learn that a convicted murderer has just escaped from prison and has only one thing on his mind, seeing Martha and his son.

A stunning film that harkens back to the classic film noirs of the 40′s and 50′s, Big Muddy is as impressive as it is compelling and it kind of demands to be seen.

Big Muddy

Writer/director Jefferson Moneo crafts a narrative that borrows from the likes of Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Orson Welles and even from a more contemporary standpoint, the Coen Brothers.  He shoots the Prairies like they have never been shot before as the movie drips with attitude and zeal, at times he makes it feel almost otherworldly and only in this place could these characters exist.  While I’ll be the first to admit that the dialogue doesn’t get going as well as you might like in a film noir typesetting such as this, it does enough to get the job done thanks to some very charismatic leads.

Nadia Litz commands the screen with gallons of femme fatale mojo  as she brings Martha Barlow to life.  It isn’t a role that demands anything over the top but requires a level of cool that still shows the frenetic worry of this character and the lifestyle choices that she has made for her teenage son who is ending up in some of the same trouble that she still finds herself in.  Justin Kelly plays it all quite well as her son while both Rossif Sutherland and James Le Gros make for great counterpoints as the loves and mistakes of her life while the great Stephen McHattie is his fantastic and scenery chewing self as her world weary dad.

Ultimately, nobody will blame you if Big Muddy flies under your radar…except for me because it really shouldn’t as it is a pulp filled piece of Canadiana that is dripping with attitude and style that makes a real cinematic mark for two up and coming Canadian talents.

Go catch it at the TIFF Bell Lightbox while you can.


  • Release Date: 5/29/2015
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');