The Quarry (2020)
★★ / ★★★★
Look underneath the surface of a familiar plot—a cop (Michael Shannon) suspecting that the man who has moved into his small and economically depressed Texan town might not be who he claims he is—and realize that there is plenty of ideas bubbling. First example: A murderer-turned-drifter (Shea Whigham) assumes the identity of a preacher and devout Christians flock into his church like cattle. These people, the majority of them Mexican who do not speak and/or understand English, are so moved by his sermons, they claim that none of the previous preachers are able to communicate to them like he does. With him, they actually feel close to God. (Since he has no prior experience being a preacher, his sermons consist of him just reading through the Bible.) Second example: A man of the law, who is white and whose father was also a cop, is willing to bend rules and look the other way just to get a conviction. He is racist in a subtle way, perhaps even only subconsciously, and yet the woman he beds is a Mexican. Clearly, the work, based on the 1995 novel by Damon Galgut (adapted to the screen by Scott Teems, who directs, and Andrew Brotzman) wishes to make comment on authorities, the hypocrisies within such powerful institutions, and our responsibility—through science and logic—to clear the fog and help others from getting lost in it. Even the church in the film doubles as a courthouse once every one or two months. Talk about emphasizing the importance of separating church and state. Clearly, elements are present to make a compelling dramatic thriller. And yet it isn’t. Far from it. Think of children who try to tell stories. “Then this happens… then this happens.” This slow-burn thriller fails to capture a consistently engaging flow. Connective tissues are not established in a way that ideas jump off the screen and relate to our humanity.