VOD film review: Southern Fury
Matthew Turner | On 24, Feb 2017
Director: Steven C. Miller
Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack
Watch Southern Fury online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
You know you’re in trouble when Nicolas Cage’s false nose is the best thing about your movie. To be clear, despite the prominence of both Cage and co-star John Cusack on the publicity for Southern Fury (originally known as Arsenal, but retitled for UK audiences), they are not the stars, so don’t be suckered into thinking this is a Nic Cage movie in the truest sense of the term, even if Cage’s reliably bonkers performance is its only worthwhile feature.
Instead, the film stars Adrian Grenier (Entourage’s Vinnie Chase) as J.P., a respectable husband and father, who runs a construction company in Biloxi, Mississippi. Jonathan Schaech plays J.P’s protective older brother Mikey, who fell in with bulbous-nosed local gangster Eddie King (Cage) at a young age after witnessing a brutal murder and keeping quiet about it.
When King gets wind of the fact that J.P. is sitting on a substantial amount of cash, he kidnaps Mikey and holds him to ransom. J.P. attempts to track down his ne’er-do-well brother with the aid of local cop Sal (Cusack), but such is Mikey’s reputation around town that everyone thinks he may be in on his own kidnapping.
All the trademark ingredients for a classic bonkers Cage performance are present and correct, from the ridiculous hair and make-up (the nose really is a work of art) to the loud wardrobe, the constant gesticulating and the over-the-top accent. The problem is that his appearances are fleeting at best, aside from the inevitable final confrontation and a big monologue scene. In other words, if you’re a Cage completist, you might as well wait for his scenes to turn up on YouTube.
As for Cusack, he goes in the opposite direction, donning dark glasses and a pull-down baseball cap for the entirety of the film, as if trying to avoid being recognised. Frankly, given the script, it’s an understandable decision.
Grenier has always been a monumentally bland actor, but he’s laughably miscast here, particularly when the film tries to present him as the sort of presence that tough guys would actually run away from, rather than immediately punch in the face.
The minimum you would want from a trashy crime thriller would be decent action sequences, but Miller’s direction is utterly inept from start to finish. A particular lowlight involves the world’s dullest car chase, which is staged so poorly that you can barely tell there’s a chase happening at all.
There’s an attempt to liven things up a bit towards the end, when, out of nowhere, Miller decides to use a combination of gloopy gore effects and slow motion, with bullets puncturing flesh and splashing blood everywhere for what seems like minutes at a time. However, it fails to achieve the desired effect and just ends up looking fetishistic.
The script and dialogue are equally dreadful, particularly when Grenier is forced to shout lines like “Katrina didn’t run us out and neither will Eddie King!” Similarly, the film completely fails to understand its own central idea – it’s clearly meant to be a film about an upright citizen having to sink to a level of brutal violence and darkness in order to rescue his brother, but there’s no sense of emotional or psychological cost to J.P.’s character, and no hint of consequence as far as the authorities are concerned.
The result is an abysmal experience on every conceivable level. The film opens with a likeable prologue featuring J.P. and Mikey as kids. You wish the filmmakers had stuck to that story instead.
Southern Fury is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription – with a 7-day free trial.