Now I’ve never been to N’Awlins, and don’t know the words to Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou or even Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Born on the Bayou. I can gu-Waa-rahn-tee that I’ve never been in the state called Louisiana. At least not in person.
But earlier this year, from January 12th, to March 9th, I invested about 8 hours of my time to spend it with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McGonaughey. Maybe they weren’t all that Cajun, but certainly True Detectives they were. No doubt about that. But last week I spent some time with another detective in bayou country. Willem Dafoe portrays Baton Rouge detective Bud Carter in the straight to video film called Bad Country.
When we first meet Bud, he’s working a buy and bust deal that goes bad when he shows up on the TV, in the bar where the deal is going down. Hey, this guy is a cop!!!
Bud worked the narcotics detail among others and he knew who he was and where he was. He knew that he was swimming in a river of shit, and he aimed to make it better.
In his own words, Bud Carter said – South Louisiana in the 1980’s was a different kind of time and place. Some called it lawless. But it wasn’t. Others said we just got a certain way of doing things down here. But it ain’t that either. Instead, I call it what it was. Hell with the lid off.
So with the pressure mounting, and more and more drugs finding their way into Baton Rouge and N’Awlins – strong measures were called for. While Carter was doing his thing, a contract killer called Jesse Weiland (Matt Dillon) was doing his thing.
Circles crossed and one day Weiland found himself looking down the twin barrels of a shotgun in the hands of Officer Carter. Being a two time loser, as well as a parole violator, Weiland was looking at the shotgun which represented the end of his freedom forever.
He had no choice but to accept a deal offered by Carter. It was simple. Come to work for us. Get yourself close to Lutin (Tom Berenger) – the boss of all bosses in these parts. Report everything to us so we can take down Lutin once and for all – and you’ll stay free.
There’s your set up, and there’s your film.
This film has had a tough time of it. There are 4 screenwriting credits, 6 producer credits, and 11 Executive Producer credits. The director Chris Brinker died during the film’s post production. The production began on August 7th of 2012, Brinker died before completing the film on February 8th, 2013, and the film was ultimately released, and went straight to video on April 29th, 2014.
Now this is not a bad film. Dafoe brings his usual intensity and Dillon, the king of Red Box rentals, sports a huge mustache, as does about every other dude in the film. Amy Smart as Weiland’s Missus and their infant son are about the only folks in the film that aren’t in a mustache competition.
But not every one looks good. Lutin is played by an almost unrecognizable Tom Berenger. He looks and sounds, with his in and out Cajun accent, as a younger Col. Sanders of KFC.
Bad Country – not really a great title as not all that much attention is paid to navigating through the dangling moss of the bayous and swamps – might have done better with a less generic title.
Now it plays out exactly as expected . Weiland really doesn’t care if he spends another 5 minutes in jail or is dispatched to meet his maker right then and there. But his wife and young son would be left behind and with nothing on hand to keep them afloat, he has no choice but to partner up with Bud Carter and to burn down every one of his bridges connecting him to the organization, man by man.
Now Lutin is no fool either. Just like Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello soon became aware that he had a mole in his gang in Scorsese’s The Departed, Lutin comes to the same realization. Besides that he’s good with a knife, and is basically a law unto himself AND he’s fearless.
Yet, and surprisingly, Lutin was the film’s weak link.
Dillon and Dafoe simply carry the picture on their backs, and all the delays and shortcomings in the overworked and overcooked script – too many cooks do spoil the broth – don’t help matters.
What we end up with is a not a great film, or even a good film – but far from a bad film. It is certainly worth a Red Box rental. Three point zero on the ratings chart. So the next time you’re in the supermarket buying your chips, and your spuds, and a six-pack or two of suds – look for the friendly Red Box.
The trailer –