“Blow the Man Down” is a homey and nasty little neo-noir set on the fishing coast of Maine.
Stylish, with a “Greek Chorus” of oilskin-clad fishermen looking on and singing sea chanteys as the murders and cover-ups are laid out before us like a newly-gutted haddock, it’s a tasty slice of wintry escape with a coda that had me shouting at the screen — in a good “Oh my Jayzuss” sort of way.
In movie fan shorthand? “Blood Simple” meets “Mystic Pizza.”
Two sisters, played by Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor, are feeding friends and family after their mother’s funeral when we meet them.
Pris (Lowe), short for Priscilla, is the dutiful one, running Connolly’s Fish Market like her mother before her. Mary Beth (Saylor) is the bitter one, the “wild child” who stayed only under duress. Now that mom’s dead, “I’m on my way OUTTA town” she tells anybody within earshot, calling drab little East Cove “this s—hole,” which it plainly is.
Their mother’s peers are a gossipy bridge club missing their fourth. But don’t underestimate these “hens.” Casting veteran character actresses Annette O’Toole, June Squibb and Marceline Hugot lets us know who the real power in this village of fisherMEN is.
And now that the girls’ mother’s gone, these three are out to “do something” about the former friend (Margot Martindale, FIERCE) who runs the local B & B. Young floozies, including Alexis (Gayle Rankin, perfect), make it their base of operations as they work “the docks,” nicknamed “the desert” here.
Golly, a brothel in a sleepy little town in modern day Maine? Go figure.
The crime is one of self-defense. One sister gets in over-her-head with a bar pick-up (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). She drives his car when he’s too drunk to navigate, sees the gun in the glove box, the blood in the trunk and his rising, drug-fueled aggression and tries to flee.
And when that fails, she harpoons the dude. Plenty of those on the docks, mixed in with the lobster traps, ropes, gaff-hooks and the like.
Can these two cover up the crime, dispose of the body and pretend all this never happened?
Not if the busybodies have any say. The madam of the brothel may be interested in that, too.
And the state police (Will Brittain, Skipp Sudduth) might be on the case, if they ever figure out anybody’s missing.
Co-writers/directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy don’t reinvent the “Can they get away with it?” murder mystery here. But they take us through the tropes of the genre with wit and a healthy dose of “local color.”
The myriad tensions that show up here create a veritable “Twin Peaks” soap opera of backbiting rivalries, dirty secrets and violence.
The woman are a sparkling collection of new finds and timeworn Oscar nominees and together they own the show, with Martindale and Squibb standing out. Saylor (“White Girl” and TV’s “Homeland”) has the showier sister to play, even though both she and Lowe do their siblings justice.
Brittain does nice work as the “Sorry to bother you” young cop always two steps behind events, still one step ahead of his look-the-other-way veteran partner.
And the conceit of having a fisherman soloist and chorus of fishermen singing and setting the tone for the tragedies and drama with a playful version of “Blow the Man Down” as the opening credits, and songs like the mournful “Blood Red Roses” shanty scattered throughout is just brilliant.
It’s that extra touch that even genuine Down Easters, from Stephen King onward, should appreciate and that makes “Blow the Man Down” an Amazon streaming winner.
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence, sexual material and brief drug use
Cast: Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor, Will Brittain, June Squibb, Annette O’Toole and Margot Martindale
Credits: Written and directed by Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy. An Amazon release.
Running time: 1:32