SXSW 2017 Review: Small Crimes
Netflix is, for better or worse, becoming the hit network/studio for television and original films. Lately, most of the original films have been an excellent showcase for independent filmmakers, as well as an outlet for what would be lesser known movies to be seen by a significantly bigger audience. The festival circuit has always been a terrific way to generate buzz amongst films of each genre, and now that Netflix is a multi-billion dollar studio, we can see some of these films sooner, and in the comfort of our homes.
The latest from director E.L. Katz, Small Crimes follows a disgraced former cop, (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) fresh off a six-year prison sentence for attempted murder – returns home looking for redemption but winds up trapped in the mess he left behind.
Small Crimes does a great job of targeting a specifical niche audience, and never derails in tone, or aesthetic. This will likely be too morally ambiguous for casual moviegoers, but the core indie audience will be pleased throughout the brisk 90-minute runtime. As a fan of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s, it’s great to see him act against type and proves he is a talent to look out for and not just the “cute boy” we are used to him playing.
His character, Joe Denton, is not a typical protagonist. His head is (usually) in the right place, and all he wants is to make things right with his wife and daughter, who he hasn’t seen since being sent to jail. Unfortunately, he soon realizes that his family or anyone for that matter wants nothing to do with him. Coster-Waldu’s performance truly excels once he comes to the realization that to get his family back, he needs to straightening out the mess he left behind. Meaning he has to venture out into the criminal world he so desperately wanted to avoid. He plays it so well going between the changed man he thinks he is while settling all too quickly back into his crime roots.
Small Crimes does have some trouble finding a thematic tone to stick with. Most of the time, it’s a solid dramatic thriller, that treads on some dark comedic elements at points. However, the black comedy can feel out of place and awkward during the more emotional scenes in the story. That doesn’t mean the comedic elements don’t always work, they do, especially scenes with Joe’s best friend, Scott (Macon Blair, who also co-wrote the film).
The hard thing about investing in Small Crimes is how hard it is to get behind a character that every move he makes is for his best interest. I didn’t find myself caring if Joe ended up back in prison, or with his family at all. While Nikolaj Coster- Waldau’s performance is fantastic, the character of Joe has little to no humanity. I couldn’t invest in a character emotionally who felt no empathy, which dragged the story down for me.
Still, E.L. Katz can direct the Hell out of a movie, and his talent should not go unnoticed. Regardless of how I felt about the story, his direction was always tension filled and authentic which stood out. In the end, Small Crimes is a revenge tale about a character that doesn’t quite deserve the revenge he seeks. Although, fans of Coster-Waldau will be joyed to see him showcase his acting talents far beyond what we’ve seen of him thus far.
Small Crimes will be available to stream on Netflix on April 28th, 2017