‘Devil’s Peak’ Review: The Curse of a Family Name

In this thin drama, Billy Bob Thornton plays a menacing drug kingpin whose son begins to question their way of life.

Send any friend a story

As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.

By Brandon Yu

When you purchase a ticket for an independently reviewed film through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.

A montage early in “Devil’s Peak” — bags of meth trading hands, the patched-up houses of its users — gives a rundown of the milieu we’re about to enter and introduces Charlie (Billy Bob Thornton), the Appalachian drug kingpin at its center. The grainy, faux-home movie footage is about as close as we’ll get to truly feeling present in the gritty crime world that the film attempts to evoke. “In Jackson County, North Carolina, my family name meant something,” Jacob (Hopper Penn), Charlie’s son, explains.

Different iterations of this opening line come up again, over and over, each time emphasizing the McNeely name and the outlaw blood that flows through any cursed person who bears it. Yet the rest of the film, directed by Ben Young and adapted from a novel by David Joy, struggles to meaningfully flesh out what the McNeely life is actually like.

The movie doesn’t have enough of a narrative engine to compensate for its lack of world building. After Jacob becomes involved with Maggie (Katelyn Nacon), the stepdaughter of a greasy politician who eventually targets Charlie’s dealings, he begins to question his obligation to his father’s way of life. Yet their relationship (and many others) is too thinly developed to provide emotional stakes.

Instead, the film mostly relies on Thornton’s overdone malice — his character, in his punked-up, Southern Walter White look, often borders on the cartoonish. On the other hand, Penn, the son of Robin Wright, a co-star and producer of the movie, is left to offer up little more than the sad stare of a conflicted son. Wright is the film’s easy standout: Her story as the addicted mother is one whose details we never really know but can intuit through somber, silent moments in her darkened home.

Devil’s Peak
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters.

Site Index

Site Information Navigation

Source: Read Full Article