Bullitt County

When it comes to tearing friendships apart, nothing is quite so reliable as buried treasure. Being stranded on an island with rapidly declining resources is a close second. Bullitt County, written and directed by David McCracken, tackles the former scenario in a backwoods, post-Vietnam sort of way, which, in theory, should add some texture to an already rich character dynamic. Theory and application are two different things, however.

As these kinds of stories usually go, a sense of normalcy is the first thing to be established. This happens through an unconventional bachelor party, in which four friends are reunited after many years of living separate lives. At this early stage, the movie reveals some of its major shortcomings, particularly in the relationship of the friends and the dialogue. To try and convince you of the tight fellowship between the four, McCracken employs jokey banter that is as unconvincing as it is mildly irritating. It’s almost like watching aliens in skin-suits attempt to recreate human companionship, but in a cold, literal way that misses the point.

“Gordie has developed a drinking problem…it’s him that hears about some buried, prohibition-era treasure and suggests hunting it down.”

Of the four friends, the one given the most attention is Gordie (Mike C. Nelson). Fresh out of Vietnam, Gordie has developed a drinking problem that creates an immediate tension between him and the others. In fact, it’s him that hears about some buried, prohibition-era treasure and suggests hunting it down. Along with the stiff dialogue, Nelson’s performance is too monotonous to truthfully relate Gordie’s inner turmoil, which isn’t written as a sudden explosion, but as a “little rock hits a big rock hits a bigger rock” progression.

In addition to the impotence of Gordie’s character, the overall film never manages to pull off the desperation and corrosion of innocence seen in movies like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or A Simple Plan. Instead, it feels like everything is being artificially positioned to allow for a violent climax, which plays out just the way you’d expect. Guns are pointed, and speeches are had. Should the concept of a crazy, Peckinpah-esque bloodbath tickle your crooked fancies, the movie doesn’t contain that level of energy.

“…the concept of a crazy, Peckinpah-esque bloodbath tickle your crooked fancies…”

Every now and then, a line or a subtle moment in someone’s performance has some truth in it, but little is sustained in Bullitt County. It confidently slides all of its chips into the Gordie character, but without the writing or performance to legitimize that decision. From purely an aesthetic point of view, the movie looks great for an indie film. Never does the cutting of corners come through to the audience. It’s everything inside the corners that’s the problem.

Bullitt County (2018) Written and directed by David McCracken. Starring Mike C. Nelson, Jenni Melear, David McCracken, Napoleon Ryan, Dorothy Lyman, Richard Riehle, Alysia Livingston.

4 out of 10 stars

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