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‘A Violent Separation’ (review)

Produced by Dan Clifton, Christopher Watkins
Written by Michael Arkof
Directed by Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Starring Brenton Thwaites,
Alycia Debnam-Carey, Ben Robson,
Claire Holt, Francesca Eastwood,
Gerald McRaney, Ted Levine

Not-bad family melodrama/crime thriller is given a huge boost from ace performances from old pros Gerald McRaney and especially Ted Levine (more on him later).

Brenton Thwaites and Ben Robson play brothers in a small, rural town.

Thwaites is a deputy to sheriff Levine while Robson is a ne’er-do-well with a penchant for getting into fights and openly cheating on his girlfriend.

Robson has also been to jail twice, so when he’s involved in a violent accident, he panics and enlists his brother for help, citing blood is thicker than water and all that.

An ensuing investigation, involving misplaced personal items, distrust, guilt, etc. unfolds over the rest of the film’s running time.

The result is a familiar tale covering well-trod genre territory, albeit one that is mostly successful and involving if a bit underwhelming.

Writer Michael Arkof and directors Kevin and Michael Goetz cover the bases of the above plus familial betrayal and paranoia in an efficient manner but the film could have used a bit more pizzazz to really hit home.

Arkof’s script is occasionally muddled, with characters accusing one another of things that we have to take on faith but in or two cases come out of nowhere. There are also a few lines of dialogue that land with a thud, and some revelations are tired rather than tried-and-true.

Also, the direction, while more than competent, relies too heavily on self-conscious and distracting, shaky hand-held camerawork that belies a lack of imagination.

That said, the acting is uniformly solid, the film moves along at a nice clip, and it’s never dull. It never catches fire, true, but an uneven yet solid crime drama is nothing to sneeze at.

Having said that, the filmmakers were lucky to have landed Levine as the sheriff. Levine’s pitch-perfect turn singlehandedly saves the film from being merely an OK time killer.

Can we just talk briefly about how great – and really, how underappreciated – Levine is? He’s been acting in film for over thirty years and has consistently been beneficial to a production.

Obviously – and understandably – he’ll always be remembered for his superb performance as Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb in The Silence of The Lambs. And his voice is unmistakable (and used to such great effect in the underrated Joy Ride).

But he’s done so much more, from Michael Mann’s Heat to Scorsese’s Shutter Island to the underrated thriller Switchback.

Hell, he brings his omnipresent professionalism and talent to dross like Wild Wild West and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and elevates them in the process.

In short, Levine is a terrific character actor who is so much more than the dude who tucked his business away and danced in front of a mirror (as amazing as that movie moment is) and his acting in A Violent Separation is a testament to this.

A Violent Separation opens in limited release and On Demand today.

 

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