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TIFF 2014 Review: Big Muddy

Timeless, mysterious, and even dangerous are the Saskatchewan prairies, where Jefferson Monroe presents a beautifully cinematic and delightfully devilish tale of outlaw Canadiana.

It’s a tense and surprising mystery that unravels at its own tempered pace in Big Muddy, a piece of filmmaking that is simultaneously modern day and nostalgic, fictional and grounded, southern noir and western cavalier. There is a criminal on the run, a manipulative, saucy vamp with a past, and some imposing cowboys who hang out at the racetracks. Some of them have cool hats and dresses, and of all them have guns.

These are some of the fleshed-out would-be caricatures that inhabit the small town of Big Muddy¸ which also includes said temptress Martha’s son Andy, his chaste girl friend, Martha’s criminal lover Tommy, and her estranged father.

Various storylines come to intersect at random at first and as they separate, you can see them all start to slowly move towards each other again yet, lined up for a cataclysmic finish. Each individual action, and those include kisses and robberies and gunshots, seems to play into a fated outcome where all of these characters are key players.

Martha, played by Nadia Litz, is the most compelling figure. Her confident gaze when she is manipulating desperate bar men gives ways to fear and terror when her son becomes embroiled in a game of machismo gone wrong.

Big Muddy is a rather simple story told with great confidence and dedication by a cast and crew clearly immersed in what is likely an unfamiliar world to most. There are dramatic twists and turns, sudden revelations and bloody demises, but however familiar those stories may feel, the look and sound of this stylish film keeps the viewer engaged through to that final showdown.

[star v=4]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.