Directed by K. Asher Levin.
Starring Thomas Jane, Harlow Jane, Emile Hirsch, Liana Liberato, Ashleigh Domangue, and Makana David.
A widowed father and his daughter, whose house is up for demolition, are taken hostage by a dangerous couple who won’t stop until they retrieve what lies beneath the property.
Not only does director K. Asher Levin’s Dig (coming from a script by Banipal and Benhur Ablakhad) contain the acting debut of Thomas Jane’s daughter Harlow Jane, but they also play father and daughter in this tonally confused misfire.
It’s a shame that this is their first collaboration, which gets off to a bad start with Scott Brennan (Thomas Jane) losing his cool alongside his petrified wife (Ashleigh Domangue) while storming into a high school party playing the tough guy role, trying to get his daughter 16-year-old daughter Jane (Harlow Jane) away from a touchy boyfriend. Moments later, an ill-fated interaction occurs at a gas station where Scott again loses his temper, this time over a stranger cutting him off. The situation leads to a grisly shooting of his wife, having painted this father as an unlikable nutjob whose rage brought irreparable damage to the family.
One year later, Jane no longer speaks and has severe hearing issues, forced to communicate via sign language. Naturally, she maintains a grudge against her father, who struggles to connect with her and doesn’t put much effort into learning a new way of communicating. Nevertheless, some work comes Scott’s way; demolition work on an isolated home. He also brings his daughter along in hopes of reconnecting throughout working.
Suddenly, the home is overrun by white trash rednecks played by Emile Hirsch and Liana Liberato, injecting Dig with an abundance of sleaziness that works far better than the god-awful dramatic attempts on display between an estranged father-daughter pairing. Victor and Lola have set up the demolition workers to take the fall, forcing Scott and Jane to drill into the patio in search of unknown goods. They deliver livewire turns as entertainingly despicable characters, with Victor ranting about feminist culture and filling bodies with more holes than SpongeBob Squarepants.
It’s a loony turn with Emile Hirsch aware of what kind of junk he is participating in. The same goes for Lola, developing an inappropriate sexual crush on the 17-year-old Jane while not afraid to resort to torture once either hostage steps out of line. There’s a scene with these lunatics becoming so distracted by their horniness that having sex with one another hilariously becomes an opportunity for Scott and Jane to flee, also suggesting that K. Asher Levin is alert on some level to how absurd this story is and to roll with the camp.
It’s apparent that the filmmakers are trying to juxtapose Scott’s personality from the initial tragedy to this hostage situation, now emptier and defeated with no will to fight back for fear of losing another beloved family member. But the mundane dialogue doesn’t invest us in either character or the hokey gimmick of using sign language to plan an escape. It’s all miscalculated and in poor taste, especially when Scott preaches about forgiveness and Jane breaks down, blaming herself over mom’s death.
These aspects drag down whatever fun is to be had here, leaving one wishing the entire movie centered on the sociopathic adventures of its nutty villains. Time and time again, Emile Hirsch elevates awful material, but Dig should be buried.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com