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Shotgun Stories (DVD Review)

25 May, 2008 By: Brendan Howard

Shotgun Stories

Prebook 5/27/08; Street 7/1/08
Box Office $0.04 million
$24.95 DVD
Rated ‘PG-13' for violence, thematic elements and brief strong language.
Stars Michael Shannon, Barlow Jacobs, Douglas Ligon.

Revenge threatens to destroy a generation of two families' men in the Arkansas-based drama Shotgun Stories. The powerful film starts with a portrait of sweeping, sedate landscapes of the cotton fields, a run-down town, and a trio of soft-spoken, reserved adult brothers: the oldest, Son (Shannon); the soon-to-be-engaged Kid (Jacobs); and the chubby, gentle-hearted Boy (Ligon).

The greatest mystery in the beginning is why Son's back is peppered with shotgun scars. Caught in bed with someone's wife? Robbed a liquor store? But that mystery disappears in viewers' memory as Son, Kid and Boy become angrily involved with their good-for-nothing father's second family.

The boys' absentee dad has died, and Son shows up to deliver a few words at the graveside and tops it off by spitting on the casket. We learn through his angry words that their father used to be a drunkard, but mended his ways and cut his ties with this abandoned trio and their bitter mother.

The father's new respectable family doesn't take kindly to Son's outburst, and soon harsh words on both sides give way to violence that begets more violence.

This stunning debut from writer-director Jeff Nichols, while always retaining a mood of a hot, slow Arkansas summer, uses small movements, words and facial expressions by these good old boys to unravel their characters, their pasts and the dangerous future they're careening toward.

Nichols never settles for telling us what's happened or is happening to this family when showing us works better. He gives us time to fall in love with this town and these characters and deliciously and slowly reveals a plot and a past that resonates with anger and broken childhoods.

A masterful storyteller drawing first-rate performances from his actors and actress is at work here.

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