Netflix UK film review: Small Crimes
Josh Slater-Williams | On 07, May 2017
Director: Evan Katz
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Molly Parker, Robert Forster, Jacki Weaver
Watch Small Crimes online in the UK:
Writer-director Evan Katz follows up his debut feature, Cheap Thrills (where he was credited as E.L. Katz), with Small Crimes, a potboiler that’s as modest as its title suggests.
Katz’s film is co-written with Macon Blair, director of fellow Netflix Original movie I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, who also pops up in a fairly stacked cast of favoured character actors. Though based on a David Zeltserman novel of the same name, Small Crimes, as laid out by Katz and Blair, feels akin to Blair-collaborator Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, in its depiction of a blood feud leading to a protagonist digging deeper and deeper holes for themselves. This one’s lacking Saulnier’s level of impeccable craft and detail, but there’s the odd quirk that makes it stick out – in particular, a fun performance from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, where you can always see the gears turning in his character’s mind, as he spouts various insincere sentiments.
Coster-Waldau plays ex-cop Joe, who is released from prison after a six-year stretch and looking to move on from his troubled past and make a fresh start with his estranged daughters and newfound sobriety. The latter is broken almost immediately, after Joe finds out his girls now live far away and are apparently not in touch with Joe’s parents (Forster and Weaver).
Making matters worse for Joe’s whole attitude of being a changed man are the long-held grudges in town, from parties whose lives were disrupted by his prior transgressions – details of which are commendably doled out slowly by Katz and Blair, without unnatural exposition dumps – and those who seek to exploit them. Gary Cole is on fine form as a corrupt ex-partner, who helped reduce Joe’s sentence, but now wants to blackmail the man to go back to his old ways, when new information on the old case looks set to come to light. Cue encounters with an ailing mob boss, his smarmy progeny (Cheap Thrills star Pat Healy), a sympathetic hospice worker (Parker) caught up in Joe’s mess, and inevitable gun-based standoffs.
For all the talk some may spout about how Netflix should give all their Netflix Original movies at least a limited theatrical run prior to their streaming debut, Small Crimes is the epitome of a movie perfectly suited to a premiere on home media. Little in it would justify the expense of a cinema visit, as much as Katz does inject a strong eye for visual drama, but the film is engaging enough for a casual watch on a quiet night in. It does little that’s innovative, but it also does little that’s overtly objectionable: the performances are solid, and, in all likelihood, no creepy little girl is going to come and kill you seven days later as punishment for watching it – sometimes, that’s all you need.
Small Crimes is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.