All The Pieces Come Together. Like many solid thrillers that contain deadly propositions and mysterious elements, there are gradual reveals of an overall scheme or dark history that ultimately encapsulates the purpose of the events of the story taking place. This film is no different, with the main story following young Jake who’s made an agreement with a questionable man to trade the life of a classmate for her recently diseased brother being split with that of her grandfather (the sheriff) and terrible happenings in his past 30 years ago in the same small town. The problem is that the development of her grandfather’s past to present events seems completely unrelated and unnecessary, yet is still more intriguing than the actions of Jake’s storyline. Though it all comes together in the end, it seems silly and unexciting because there was no breadcrumb trail for the audience to follow and draw conclusions on before the reveal which only then provides all the necessary information for the whole picture to be seen. It’s not effective or engaging storytelling, and therefore there’s no heft to the “big reveal” in the end which has all the elements for something powerful but falls flat with little more than an eye roll.
Passive Protagonist. A big part of the issue is that there’s really no emotional or relationship development between Jake and her brother to establish why she wants to go to such lengths to get her brother back; except, of course, that they are related and isn’t that what siblings do? She seems to be going through the motions because it’s what the story calls for. She never questions the circumstances around how she might be able to get him back, no matter how sketchy or unbelievable they may seem or how negatively things begin to progress. She feels too passive for a protagonist, and while her motivation is clear she doesn’t seem very motivated herself to accomplish it.
A Work In Progress. The film as a whole has all the necessary pieces for a strong story and interesting filmmaking. The writer/director seems very capable if the story itself is strong enough. The cast is full of familiar faces that do good work and the quality overall looks as good as anything else. There’s just an issue with the story that’s being told and the perspective it takes to tell it. It feels like Jake’s character and focus was the only way they could tell the more interesting story happening around her but they didn’t know how to make her actions and events meaningful and engaging. What’s so frustrating is that this production feels like it’s only a few rewrites and re-edits away from being an exciting and mind-bending thriller as advertised. As it stands it’s a passive viewing experience with little to offer on the surface.
What is meant to be a haunting and mysterious revenge thriller, turns out to be a surface level story void of emotion where it’s needed most.