Southern Fury, 2017.
Directed by Steven C. Miller.
Starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Adrian Grenier, Johnathon Schaech, and Christopher Coppola.
A Southern business owner attempts to rescue his crooked brother from a local gangster.
Soon to join the Netflix pile of awful action films that no one would willingly good pay money for, sees this odd crime “thriller” of one ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation. This ordinary guy is business owner JP (Adrian Grenier) who, as the opening voice-over dictates, is facing a predicament: should he save his deadbeat brother Mikey (Johnathon Schaech)?
A lengthy flashback unfolds before our eyes, top explain why one sibling lead a straight life and the other turned to crime. Sign posted along the way are cliches a troubled childhood – neglectful single family, alcoholic unemployed drunk to care for them etc. Mikey protects JP from the harsh realities e.g. the abrupt suicide of the aforementioned father-figure. It’s never thoroughly explained how Mikey protected JP from such horrors throughout the years (a brief 90-minute runtime must cut corners), except for one kind gesture signifying a pivotal moment in their lives (it is a biggie). In shielding JP from such harsh realities, it makes Mikey’s deadbeat personality, that the film shows after this moment, too easily sympathetic, as though he’s a martyr to JP or a victim of circumstance. Let it be earned, not dictated.
Mikey, still in the flashback, turns to local gangster Eddie King (Nicolas Cage) as a father figure. King is a gangster. That’s it. He extorts money, takes drugs, and has a violent temperament. We’re given snippets of his seedy lifestyle, which is, in a similar style to JP/Mikey’s childhood, sign-posted with gangster clichés – scantily-clad women, henchmen that don street-gangster attire, and King’s preference to booze and cocaine in loud (empty!) bars. After Mikey does some time in jail he’s released and vows(ish) to not return to such a world – it doesn’t take Mikey long to reject JP’s offer to work for him at his construction company and to instead push cocaine on the streets and to sell military arsenal to a local pawn shop. Yes, clichés abound this film.
Flash forward: Mikey is released from prison after not ratting out the King. Now Mikey’s released he vows(ish) to not return to such a criminal underworld. A hollow gesture for he rejects JP’s offer to work at his construction site and opts to push drugs and to sell military arsenal to a local pawn shop. Again, clichés tape the film’s plot together.
King, older in plot but definitely not in look, recognises the recently released Mikey in a bar and invites him to sit with him as he tells Mikey of his new plan. King wants Mikey to fake his own kidnapping and to extort his brother JP for $350,000 for Mikey’s his fake-release. The plot then begins after JP receives a mysterious phone call telling him that his brother has been kidnapped. JP is uncertain of the legitimacy of the call, and so joins undercover cop Sal (John Cusack) to do some investigating.
Cage is at his lowest point here as he delivers a career worst performance. Less like a kingpin of a criminal underworld, he’s more like a cartoon. It’s a pitiful, joyless experience, made only more pathetic by the ludicrous make-up and prosthetics. Those seeking for a Cage-out moment needn’t look here. Cage delivers a rigid and uncomfortable performance.
Conversely, the other big name attached to this slog of a movie, it’s Cusack that looks strangely comfortable. He may have swagger without any presence, and the faux-badass toothpick in Cusack’s mouth maybe reminiscent of a child learning to play a hard, but at least Cusack tries here. In fact, all the actors look to be trying but seem unable to pitch it right.
This misfire could be accredited to screenwriter Jason Mosberg, who clearly lacks discipline. Every character has a subplot, a backstory, or a personal vice. JP’s wife is a devout Christian that she expresses heavy-handedly, Mikey’s daughter is a drug addict because of reasons, and King’s brother neglected him because of crime (portrayed here by real-life family member Christopher Coppola). These forced subplots cram themselves into an already tight 90-minute runtime. Edit, Mosberg, edit!
Southern Fury is a joyless 90-minute slog and a true contender for 2017’s worst films list.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★