Bad Country is filled with small pleasures. Like Willem Dafoe’s opening and closing narration (few sounds are as soothing as his gravelly baritone). Or Dafoe’s and Matt Dillon’s badass horseshoe mustaches. Or a cameo by the imposing Bill Duke. Or Tom Berenger’s over the top villain (a rosy-cheeked dandy with a Cajun accent, who walks with a cane he doesn't need, shoots clay pigeons, and lives in a prototypical southern mansion). These are some the hooks on which the filmmakers hang a fairly conventional plot; there’s the cop who doesn't always play by the book but gets results (thankfully we are spared the obligatory scene where his boss takes him off the case and asks him to relinquish his badge and gun), the criminal with the heart of gold who is a lesser evil compared to the real villains, the rookie federal agent who does always play by the book and becomes a thorn in the rogue cop's side, the flamboyant mob boss accompanied by a servile, crooked lawyer, etc., etc., etc. Bad Country hits all the notes we've come to expect from this type of thriller and, as it turns out, director Chris Brinker and screenwriter Jonathan Hirschbein know the words as well as the music. The superb casting also goes a long way toward refreshing the material; Dafoe and Dillon are such craftsmen that the film is worthwhile just to see what they do with their characters – or, conversely, to watch Berenger and Duke having a lot of fun with their clichés. As familiar as the script may be, this is a case in which familiarity does not breed contempt; furthermore, clocking in at 95 minutes, Bad Country does not overstay its welcome (the only thing that makes you go ‘huh’ is a random subplot – more ‘sub’ than ‘plot,’ though – involving Dafoe’s character’s father, who stumbles into the plot as if he just wandered in from a different movie, and then disappears as abruptly as he entered).
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