Blow The Man Down (Amazon Studios)
Starring Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Gayle Rankin.
Directed by Bridget Savage Cole & Danielle Krudy
Rating: ** ½ (two and a half stars)
Walls and waves whisper deep dark secrets in this deceptively calm crime drama set in a seaside fishing town in America where something fishy means something else.
The idea of small-town-big-secrets goes back to Peyton Place, the 1957 adaptation of the Grace Metalius novel about a provincial town filled with filthy secrets about adulterous wives and promiscuous men. The biggest asset in this deceptively quaint drama is its atmospheric eeriness. The crashing waves pounding on granite rocks and rugged fishermen singing robust folk songs, add a kind of creepy lustre to the plot.
The plot, let me warn you, is more steaming than hot. There is more smoke here than the fire that finally engulfs the characters. Two warring sisters Priscilla and Mary Beth, played with genuine filial affinity by Sophie Lowe (the good sister) and Morgan Saylor (bad sister), come together after their mother’s death to hide the corpse of a drunken sod who attacks the younger rebellious sister.
If you think that’s as dark as it gets, then save your shining torchlights for later. The initial murder makes way for another murder of a prostitute before we are looking full-frontally at a flesh racket.
Veteran actress Margo Martindale is splendid as the brothel owner who keeps the men in the seaside town happy so that they don’t turn aggressive on the female population. But the finest performance is from the Scottish actress Gayle Rankin as a sex worker confronted by the dilemma of a murdered friend and mounting gratitude towards the person responsible for the crime.
It’s delightful to watch Ms Martindale and the other reputed veteran actresses in the cast sparring on issues of morality as though in a kitty party gone sour. Corruption doesn’t only involve immoral depraved people. Nice old ladies will do, thank you. The plot puts this harsh reality across with convulsive twists and turns.
Food plays a very important part in the way the women bond in this fishing town. Fish dishes and yummy desserts are put on plates by these aged women who know better than most that the way to a man and a woman’s heart is not always the place below the stomach but also the stomach.
The narrative avoids the frantic pace of the standard noir thrillers. This is a somnambulant town stricken by a moral crisis that cannot be resolved by a young idealistic cop (Will Brittain) and his decadent partner who advises him to look the other way.
We could well do the same, provided we aren’t suckers for dark narratives that take us to places where we are compelled to go. But once there, we may feel the journey into the heart of darkness was not worth it.