One of the greatest perks to attending the SXSW festival is having the opportunity to view world premieres of films. Over the past two days I've had the pleasure of catching the first-ever showing for two of my festival favorites. First up is Small Town Crime, a comedic thriller from the minds of California-born sibling writers and directors, Eshom and Ian Nelms. The film bridges a taut story with immense acting talent, namely Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer and the Oscar-nominated SXSW favorite, John Hawkes, to create a uniquely pleasant movie experience.
An alcoholic ex-cop (Hawkes) awakes in the middle of a field after an evening of binge-drinking and somehow avoiding a DUI. As he climbs back into his car and begins driving away, he soon discovers the body of a pretty young woman on the side of the road. The man's former police instincts take charge as he dives deep into an unauthorized investigation of the girl's murder that uncovers a small-town secret which puts him and his adopted sister's family (Octavia Spencer) in grave danger.
Brothers Eshom and Ian Nelms craft an amusing and suspenseful tale that satisfies on many levels. Channeling their inner Coen brothers, the siblings utilize moments of comedic levity to fill the gaps between a remarkably-paced game of cat & mouse. Veteran performer John Hawkes has always been a personal favorite of mine, and once again he offers a multi-dimensional lead character that resonates with the audience. He's certainly flawed, but his passion and overall kind-nature help form an instant bond between him and the viewer. Joining Hawkes is the always capable Octavia Spencer who also puts her emotional prowess on full display. It would be unjust to ignore some other fantastic supporting turns which come from Robert Forster, Anthony Anderson and Clifton Collins Jr., all of whom infuse a heavy dose of humor that adds a vital element to the film. Small Town Crown checks-off nearly all the boxes and unfolds as a well-scripted and superbly-told thriller that stands as one of SXSW's finest offerings this year.