Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Clark Duke
scr Clark Duke, Andrew Boonkrong
prd Patrick Hibler, Jeff Rice, Clark Duke, Martin Sprock
with Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Eden Brolin, Vince Vaughn, John Malkovich, Vivica A Fox, Michael Kenneth Williams, Chandler Duke, Brad William Henke, Jeff Chase, Juston Street, Demi Castro
release US 5.May.20
20/US Lionsgate 1h57

vaughn malkovich fox

duke and hemsworth
Witty dialog adds enjoyable spark to this crime thriller, which plays knowingly with Southern culture while spinning a goofy story about a chaotic drug dealing network. With his feature directing debut, actor Clark Duke gives the film some snappy style, with a cool song score and colourful production design. The plot is a bit flippant and convoluted, with several twisty sideroads, so it's entertaining but tricky to engage with.
Drug dealer Kyle (Hemsworth) is so low on the ladder that he doesn't believe the big boss Frog exists. Promoted to a position in Arkansas, his new partner is Swin (Duke), a nerdy mastermind. On their first mission, they're stopped by Park Ranger Bright (Malkovich), who's part of the network and gives them roles delivering drugs in the surrounding states. When things take an unexpected turn, Kyle and Swin find themselves operating on a whole new level to avoid being caught. They're also about to learn that Frog (Vaughn) definitely exists. And he's not happy.
The film has a gently loping charm, mixing character comedy with often accidental violence to create a light Coen Brothers vibe. The narrative cycles back in time to recount the story of Frog's rise to power under local kingpin Almond (Williams), whose sister (Fox) he promises to care for. He also hires twin goons (Henke and Chase) who protect his interests over two decades. All of this is interesting, but some subplots feel unnecessary and others are in need of more severe editing.

Hemsworth has a terrific sleepy charm as an unambitious natural leader who outsmarts everyone without trying. Meanwhile, Duke is hilariously awkward as Swin punches far above his weight, including an illicit romance with the feisty Johnna (Brolin). The surrounding cast has a lot of fun investing even the smallest characters with sparky personality. Standouts are Fox's feisty, no-nonsense recluse and Vaughn's jaded kingpin. While the fabulous Malkovich effortlessly steals the show.

As a director, Duke has a sharp eye for local detail, populating great locations with lively people, each of whom is hiding something. There are strong social comments woven into the fabric of the story, such as how the American dream has shifted from a strong work ethic to a desperate quest for easy money. So whether Kyle and Swin have a plan or are just hapless losers, they're going to face the consequences of their actions. And the final scene carries a strong dramatic kick.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.May.20

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