Bad Country (2014)

Bad Country (2014)
  • Time: 95 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Chris Brinker
  • Cast: Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe, Neal McDonough


When Baton Rouge police detective Bud Carter busts contract killer Jesse Weiland, he convinces Jesse to become an informant and rat out the South’s most powerful crime ring. So when the syndicate orders Carter’s death and Weiland’s ID’d as a snitch, the two team up to take down the mob and the crime boss who ordered the hit.


  • Make no bones about it, if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had an award for Best Picture a la straight to DVD, Bad Country would surely take the prize. Matt Dillon, who seems to love appearing in movies that hardly anyone bothers to see, gives a revealing and rather appealing performance as “Country’s” revenge-minded lead role. With this turn, a stint in 2004’s Employee of the Month, and the part of Patton Dubois in 2006’s Nothing But the Truth, Dillon is for a better word, the Redbox king. To each his own I guess (for the record, I’ve got no problem paying $1.20 to rent a DVD at a Redbox kiosk, that’s for sure).

    With a working title labeled Whiskey Bay (I almost like that one better) and a promising director who died way too soon (the taskful Chris Brinker), Bad Country goes back to the early 80’s with contract killer Jesse Weiland (Dillon) getting caught by an intense police detective named Bud Carter (the forever cool Willem Dafoe). Weiland gets busted on a handful of serious charges. He’s looking at life in prison unless he can become an informant by giving up every name on a list of people he works with (other contract killers who inhabit a nasty, dutiful crime ring). Now Weiland is about as laid-back as anyone. He doesn’t give a hoot about his well being. But he’s got a wife/newborn on the outside and is willing to cooperate in order to avoid going to the perennial slammer.

    Bad Country harks back to stuff like 1991’s Rush, 1982’s 48 Hrs, and even Matt Dillon’s own earlier work, the critically acclaimed Drugstore Cowboy. Call it a narc flick, a broken down character study, a stylistic mob farce, and mustache abundant (almost every character seems to channel the facial hair of actor Sam Elliott for unabashed inspiration). What you don’t want to call “Country” is something that lacks for trying. This thing wants to detour you from knowing that it probably got rejected from numerous theater screenings. Could the generic title be the culprit? I can’t be sure. Does it matter at this point? Not really. The original release date was months ago so it’s obvious that too much time has passed.

    Nevertheless, we get the pleasure of seeing a formed dynamic and an unlikely partnership between the characters played by Dafoe and Dillon. It’s hard to believe it, but they have never been on screen together before the release of “Country”. Here they’ve got great chemistry as opposites who are at large, the same. Watching them trade dialogue in various scenes made me think that they’ve been working side by side for years. Throw in Tom Berenger (where’s he been) as ruthless crime boss Lutin and you’ve got a cast that makes this thing rise above the ordinary. Yeah, Bad Country does at certain intervals, feel like a full-on rental with carbon copy shootouts and accents used by its actors that don’t sound like anybody who lives in Louisiana (the flick’s setting and on-site location). But for most of the time, there is plenty of crackling dialogue, a sense of urgency, and smooth, conventional storytelling tactics that make you think otherwise.

    In retrospect, “Country’s” ending and its opening twenty minutes resonate with a lot of police protocol. You know, where if a felon (of any kind) is caught, they have a chance to make a deal, give up a name, and rat out someone higher up on the criminalised food chain. If you’ve seen anything law and order related, this is a premise that’s as old as dirt. Thankfully, this little seen crime drama supplies enough energy, surmised wit, and tough guy machismo to garner my recommendation regardless of all its familiarity. Bottom line: Bad Country ain’t so “bad”.

    Of note: Bad Country’s setting is in 1983. You wouldn’t know it though because its sense of time and place is sort of lacking in detail. Case in point: I didn’t really figure out that the film wasn’t in present day mode until a handful of scenes involved characters talking on payphones. Anyway, this insight is merely an oversight and shouldn’t keep you from enjoying what’s on screen.

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

  • “South Louisiana in the 1980s was a different kind of time and place. Some called it lawless. But it wasn’t. Others said we just got a certain way of doing things down here. But it ain’t that either. Instead, I call it what it was. Hell with the lid off.”

    “Bad Country” is the last thing Chris Brinker created as a filmmaker. He passed away while finishing this. The first and only film he directed. An allegedly brutal crime film in which a police officer from Baton Rouge (Willem Dafoe) is trying to round up an entire criminal gang. And that with the help of a former gang member (Matt Dillon) who tries to escape from being locked up in prison for a long time. All this set in Louisiana in the 80’s with his sultry climate. The criminal gang is led by a posh looking, rich and ruthless chief of the crime syndicate who looks like a cotton plantation owner of the 18th century : sophisticated dressed and living in a generously sized house with white columns. Only the whip was missing. “White power” was clearly the dominant message which you also could conclude after seeing the inventory of Bud Carter and the collection of tattoos that adorns his body.

    Despite the impressive cast (Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, Tom Berenger, Bill Duke, Neal McDonough), of which there are a few who proved several times in the past that they are able to play a criminal or crime fighter, it’s just a crime movie like so many others, in which all known clich├ęs are used. You can expect a load of wasted ammunition because of the back and forth firing with a considerable arsenal of firearms without apparently knowing where and at who to shoot. A lot of boys bragging and macho talk. A not so kosher negotiation techniques. An FBI delegation who loves to interfere again, seem to know everything and eventually make a complete mess of it. Promises aren’t kept which results in a decisive revenge. And then there’s the final round where everyone and no one is a winner.

    Willem Dafoe did a great job as a detective who knows how to run an investigation thoroughly and at the same time takes his responsibilities. A beautiful interpretation at times. Matt Dillon on the other hand, whose recent roles in “Pawn Shop Chronicles” and “The Art of the Steal” weren’t that memorable either, disappointed and didn’t carry weight in this movie, even though he is the owner of a giant walrus mustache which many balding guys would envy because they could use the hairpiece as a toupee. It even seemed as if the two protagonists were in competition about that. Tom Berenger (the last time I saw him acting was in “Training Day”) was convincing as the ruthless crime lord Lutin with the looks of a Pavarotti. A nice supporting role was played by Bill Duke and Neal McDonough. The first as the high-ranking official from Washington Nokes (with a memorable scene where Jesse Weiland agrees to cooperate and Nokes briefly dots a few i’s) and the second one as Lutin’s sneaky counselor.

    “Bad Country” for me is a “meh” movie. You can’t really say it’s a terribly bad movie, but it’s also not a movie that impresses you. Put all existing films that deal with organized crime in a line, and this one won’t be noticed between all of them in terms of originality and inventiveness. Unfortunately we will never know what Chris Brinker still had up his sleeve and if he could overwhelm us with some other filmic creations. Too bad !

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