“Big Muddy” is a big ol’ muddle of a thriller, a lot of dangerous characters converging, from various parts of the Canadian prairie, on a femme fatale and her teenage son.
It’s a modern day Western, a B-movie that founders on a weak leading lady and a stumbling lack of urgency in the direction.
Donovan (David La Haye) escapes from prison and kills a cop in the process. A big, wild-eyed French Canadian, he must be looking for his woman, Martha.
Young Andy (Justin Kelly) is courting a teenage June (Holly Deveaux) at a local horse track. That’s where he runs into the shady Buford (James Le Gros). He, too, wonders where Martha (Andy’s mom) is.
And Martha, when we meet her, is barely a single step ahead of the law her own self. She and her latest beau, Tommy (Rossif Sutherland) run a bar pickup scam that turns into armed robbery. Tommy is something of a psycho.
Canadian indie film fixture Nadia Litz plays Martha with an understated brazenness. There isn’t a hint of Hollywood in her casting, and she doesn’t deliver the confidence of even your average mug shot momma in the part. She’s kind of just here, occasionally letting her dress drape off her shoulders, struggling to deliver “sexually available,” trying to look dangerous when cornered. She isn’t.
Jefferson Moneo’s screenplay is the sort that relies on grizzled veteran character actor Stephen McHattie to offer a cop, looking for the ex-con on his ranch, a drink, which the cop turns down. Only to change his mind with “Maybe I will have that drink,” after considering the gravity of the situation. So many lines give away that no thought went into them at all. How many times do teenagers in film have to say “My dad’s gonna KILL me,” when they’re late?
McHattie, known mostly for TV work dating back to “Haven” and “Seinfeld,” has most of the best lines — “You can run from a lot of things, but your sins ain’t one of them.”
And Litz and Le Gros have the best chemistry, playing brittle banter that lets us believe they have history.
“I thought you gave up horses?”
“No. Just people like you.”
The kids are the blandest members of the supporting cast, though the heavies rarely deliver menace and the slack pace makes everybody seem listless and a little lost.
It’s not a total waste of time, but waiting around for McHattie to return and clean up “Big Muddy” gets old after a bit.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, nudity, profanity
Cast: Nadia Litz, Justin Kelly, Stephen McHattie, James Le Gros, Holly Deveaux, David La Haye
Credits: Written and directed by Jefferson Moneo. A Monterey Media release.
Running time: 1:43