At its heart, “Briar Patch” is about a young woman named Inez (Dominique Swain) who wants nothing more than to escape the life she’s been living in backwoods Virginia. This desire is fueled by a vision her psychic friend, Butcher (Karen Allen), has that involves a man (the symbolic savior on a white horse) coming for Inez. Inez knows this man is Druden (James Urbaniak), the fellow with whom she’s been having an affair. Druden is everything her husband, Edgar (Henry Thomas), isn’t. He’s got money. He’s refined. He doesn’t hit her. Richmond, Virginia, her avenue of escape, never smelled so sweet to the girl, but she has one problem: Edgar isn’t going to let her leave, let alone let her leave with her true love. Enter the creepy Flowers (Arie Verveen).
Flowers comes across as a deadly dim-witted rapist in waiting who was probably the smart one of the “Deliverance” clan. He’s also Edgar’s best friend and an admirer of the Lolita-like Inez. Inez uses her female wiles to convince Flowers to kill Edgar … and then all hell breaks loose. By the time the dust settles on Inez’s world, she realizes that Butcher’s vision was correct, but not in the way she thought it would be, and the audience is left to wonder if our anti-hero has now found love or just a new set of chains to be confined by. My guess is the latter.
There are many things this movie is. Bleak and realistic are two of them. It’s so bleak that it actually fails to satisfy, and sympathy is hard to come by for any of the characters, let alone Inez. You understand she’s young and not very wise, but at the same time she does plot to have her husband killed and actually plans on murdering someone else on her own. And this is who we are supposed to cheer for? In the real world, we’d be avoiding her and her friends like the plague.
“Briar Patch” does tell an interesting story, however, which saves the film from being consigned to the dung heap. Just don’t expect to come out of it feeling enlightened about the human condition. We’re all animals, and this film highlights that superbly.