Directors: Ian Nelms, Eshom Nelms
Cast: John Hawkes, Clifton Collins Jr., Octavia Spencer
Watch Small Town Crime online in the UK: Netflix UK
Ian Nelms and Eshom Nelms aren’t names that you’ll know. The brothers join a long line of sibling filmmakers in the business, and their latest effort, Small Town Crime, joins a long line of noir-tinged crime thrillers about a washed-up detective trying to find redemption. It’s to their credit, then, that they manage to do something memorable with the movie – before it could premiere at the London Film Festival in 2017, Netflix had already snapped up the exclusive rights to the project.
The film stars John Hawkes as Mike, an alcoholic former cop, who got kicked off the force after an incident went tragically wrong. After stumbling across a battered woman by the side of the road, he takes her into hospital – and takes it upon himself to find the culprit.
Hawkes is no stranger to gritty indie roles, and he’s the film’s biggest strength, bringing just enough likeable heart to balance out the unrepentant streak you expect from a potential stock character type. His behaviour is perfectly offset by the presence of Octavia Spencer as his sister, Kelly – a cruel-to-be-kind woman with a family of her own, including Mike’s drinking buddy, Terry (Anthony Anderson).
Twists and turns ensue, with a familiar vein of dark, offbeat humour – Clifton Collins Jr., in particular, provides a spark of fun as a local pimp. But while the action is nicely shot by the directing duo, it’s the relationships between the central trio that help the film rise above the usual genre trappings, resisting easy redemption and happy endings in favour of more screentime for Spencer and Anderson’s characters, who would normally be left watching on from the sidelines. The result is far from a modern classic, and is mostly happy to tread old ground, but there’s promise in this likeable genre flick. Ian Nelms and Eshom Nelms aren’t names that you’ll know, but don’t be surprised if you hear them again in the near future.
Small Town Crime is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.