Set in the hamlet of Cut Bank Montana—“the coldest spot in the nation”—the action begins when auto mechanic Dwayne (Liam Hemsworth) accidentally videotapes the murder of the local postman (Bruce Dern). He reports the crime to the inept local sheriff (John Malkovich), hoping for reward money, but there are complications in the form of the suspicious father of his girlfriend (Billy Bob Thornton), a postal inspector (Oliver Platt) and Derby Milton, a reclusive man (Michael Stuhlbarg) violently obsessed with getting his mail.
On its surface “Cut Bank” has all the earmarks of a quirky Coen Brothers style romp. Like an wannabe “Fargo” it’s violent, occasionally funny and populated by a talented acting ensemble (in this case lead by Malkovich) which sounds like a winner but is sunk by an abundance of quirky characters in supporting roles— Stuhlbarg’s Milton is a cartoon come to life—and good looking but bland leads in the form of Thor-bro Hemsworth and Teresa Palmer as his budding beauty queen girlfriend.
Old pros Dern, Malkovich, Thornton and Platt cut through this material like a hot knife through butter, but it is mostly the sheer strength of their collective wills that they manage to keep the script, which is ripe with exposition, from rotting on the vine.
Director Matt Shakman has an eye for the setting—the Alberta locations look great—but the town should be a character à la David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” and here it is simply a backdrop to the action.
“Cut Bank” is one of those movies where there is more to every character than meets the eye, but ultimately is a blink and you’ll miss it experience.