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Michael Shannon And Shea Whigham Match Wits In “The Quarry”

If a pair of talented actors go toe to toe and no one is around to watch, did it really happen? That’s a silly question, but it’s the type of thing you ponder while watching The Quarry, a well acted yet narratively inert picture that wastes Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham. The filmmakers may have thought that they were making the next No Country for Old Men or another modern neo western, but instead, they just took two skilled actors and marooned them within an obvious plot that takes forever to go where you know it needs to go. Shannan and Whigham do their best to make you ignore that, but it’s a bridge too far.

The movie is a real slow burn, full of crime and mystery, but surprisingly little intrigue. A traveling preacher named David Martin (Bruno Bichir) picks up a drifter (Whigham) on the side of the road while en route to a small town where he is to be the new pastor. They share a meal, but in short order, the drifter murders Martin, quickly assuming his identity, and reaching the town, where he plans to take over his job. Staying with Celia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), “David Martin” initially fools the town, though Chief Moore (Shannon) finds him peculiar. However, a petty theft in town begins to unravel all of the lies, setting up the two men for an inevitable showdown, especially once Moore begins to suspect there’s more to this individual than he’s letting be known. Scott Teems directs and shares writing duties with Andrew Brotzman, both of whom having adapted the novel by Damon Galgut. Michael Alden Lloyd handles the cinematography, while the score is from Heather McIntosh. Rounding out the cast are the likes of Alvaro Martinez, Bobby Soto, and more.

Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham are almost good enough to make this still worth watching…almost. Shannon has played this type of sardonic law enforcement official before, but he’s so rock steady at it that it remains a pleasure to witness. Whigham, initially a blank slate but soon adding in layers of guilt, turns in one of his finest performances to date. Together, they play a game of chicken with each other, daring the other to blink. Even when the script lets them down by making things incredibly obvious, they find compelling notes to play. If the rest of the flick were as good as they were, this would have really been something.

The Quarry is far from a bad movie. It just doesn’t particularly have an original bone in its cinematic body. Director Scott Teems gives things an intense look, but it’s fairly generic, and made even more so by the screenplay he penned with Andrew Brotzman. You know where things are going almost immediately and there are few, if any, curveballs to be found. It leaves the audience more than a few steps ahead of the characters, which isn’t always a bad thing, but here, you also feel ahead of the filmmakers, and that’s never good. Again, the performances are on point, but the surrounding material is far too obvious to sustain them.

Out now on Digital, The Quarry is only worth seeing if you’re a huge fan of Michael Shannon or Shea Whigham. Otherwise, it’s too much of something you’ve already seen before. Shannon and Whigham are successful here, it’s again just the material that comes up short. Make of that what you will. For me, it added up to something short of being recommendation worthy. Your mileage may vary, though I doubt it…

The Quarry is available now on Digital.

(Photos courtesy of Lionsgate)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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