A Dark Place (2019) – movie review

A Dark Place AKA Steel Country

This is one of those cases where the marketing does more harm than good to a movie. Based on the previews, A Dark Place (working title: Steel Country) is a violent, neo-noir thriller with a mystery aspect that could as well have to do with the supernatural.

However, this film is just a straight-up, conventional thriller that sees an unconventional detective as the main character: Donald (Andrew Scott) is a mentally deficient local sanitation truck driver who has a daughter from a woman who he’s not married to. His life in a typical small town in the south of the United States drags on in the routine, until the body of a boy is discovered in a nearby river. Police and local media are quick to dismiss the boy’s death as an accident, but Donald is convinced something fishy has happened, and he starts investigating what he believes to be, in fact, murder.

This is a great premise for a sombre thriller: the potential of having a delusional, somewhat retarded person investigating on a complex crime case is basically endless.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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Andrew Scott is simply amazing in the role. I truly believe him to be one of the most underrated actors working today and, here, he provides what I would consider the best male performance of the year in any horror/thriller film. His accent is perfect, his mannerism leads the audience to believe he truly is a slow guy, the way his eyes and lips move while he performs mundane tasks is simply spotless.

Scott’s unflinching performance is backed up by a well-rounded character that has been written for him: as a character study, A Dark Place takes the viewer on a journey where the main character is explored and develops throughout the 87-minute-long runtime. In fact, all the performances in the movie are quite solid – even though, aside from Scott, everyone else’s accent is quite shaky in the movie.

A Dark Place also benefits from great locations and very well-constructed sets: pros to the art department! The soundtrack, albeit generic, is very fitting for this type of picture, and the colour palette conveys the “dark place” in which Donald is at.

Although the marketing didn’t do A Dark Place any justice, the movie itself fails at most of the goals it tries to achieve. The biggest problem is that, as a thriller, this film isn’t really tense nor thrilling. There are two scenes where the tension is fairly enhanced (one involving a paediatrician and one where Donald tries to get useful information from a forensic specialist), but aside from those the movie is extremely flat and dull.

Part of that is due to the lack of characters (thus, there are not enough suspects to make you wonder and guess). This makes the movie very predictable and, in combination with the excruciatingly slow pace, really hard to sit through without falling asleep.

In a way, it almost seems like the main concept for the movie was stretched out to the extreme, without adding anything interesting to the mix: A Dark Place would’ve worked much better as a short movie or it should’ve been improved by adding elements to the very skinny script.

As though the paper-thin plot wasn’t enough, this is a visually unappealing film. The cinematography is extremely simple, the camera-work is as basic as possible, the editing doesn’t supply the story in any way.

A Dark Place is, probably, one of the biggest missed opportunities so far this year: the filmmakers had an outstanding character/performance to build an interesting world/story around, but failed at accomplishing that. What you’re left with is a great character, played by a great actor, that’s surrounded by, basically, nothing. It really is a shame.

A Dark Place                          4.5/10

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