In the small town of Mercer, Montana, Clay Bidwell (Joaquin Phoenix) is sleeping with his best friend Earl’s wife Amanda (Georgina Cates). The two men meet, and Earl claims knowledge of the affair, killing himself and implicating Clay. Amanda – keen to keep the relationship secret – refuses to help, so Clay fakes an accident to exonerate himself. That night, he ends up with a local waitress, until Amanda intervenes, killing the other woman. Once again, Clay disposes of a corpse.
Appalled, he heads for a local bar and meets hellraiser Lester (Vince Vaughn). Later, Lester begins to guess his new friend’s dark secret, and realises that his own sinister sideline may have found the perfect patsy, just as FBI Agent Shelby (Janeane Garofalo) arrives in town…
Like the Christian Slater vehicle Very Bad Things, David Dobkin’s debut feature is an espresso-black comedy that finds fun in multiple murder. Its jaunty take-no-prisoners tone may offend some, but will entertain many more. Vaughn steals the show in full panto villain mode, judging the material perfectly against Phoenix’s sober hero (years later, he’d swap that position – and dominate again – in Dodgeball). Good to see Garofalo off the leash too, putting her brand of sass to good use. Dobkin’s influences are obvious – Fargo and Badlands, for starters – and while not matching either, he has produced a witty and challenging movie worthy of attention.
USA | 104 minutes | 1998
Director: David Dobkin
Script: Matthew L. Healy
Joaquin Phoenix as Clay Bidwell
Vince Vaughn as Lester Long
Janeane Garofalo as Agent Dale Shelby
Gregory Sporleder as Earl
Georgina Cates as Amanda
Vince Vieluf as Deputy Barney
Joseph D. Reitman as Glen
Nicole Arlyn as Gloria Collins
Scott Wilson as Sheriff Dan Mooney
Wayne Brennan as Minister
Jeff Olson as Mark
Monica Moench as Kimberly
Kevin Rahm as Bystander at Amanda’s
Jesse Bennett as Dr. Jaffe
Phil Morris as Agent Reynard
Kari White as Dolores
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