Written by: Hannah Tran | April 16th, 2020
The Quarry (Scott Teems, 2020) 2 out of 4 stars.
After a nameless drifter murders a traveling preacher, he is forced to travel on to a small Texan town, wherein he must convince the community that he is the man he killed. This is the timeless premise of Scott Teem’s The Quarry, a vaguely noir mystery-thriller where good people are not necessarily the innocent ones, and legality does not necessarily indicate morality. Despite its best intentions, however, The Quarry’s meditative pace and milquetoast middle section make for a final product that never feels as though it will reach its final destination.
The Quarry is always fighting with its premise. Although full of intrigue and ample opportunity to analyze modern American institutional ethics, it never feels as though it surpasses its simple idea. Bookended by the film’s most transgressive displays of violence, the middle section tends to fall flat. While it manages to illustrate a measured depiction of the influence of religion, the beauty of kinship, and the dangers of small-town traditionalism, it never is able to turn these ideas into actual momentum. One of the reasons for this is that so many of the characters who are affected by one another rarely come into contact, usually deflating any tension the film has going for it. Despite this, The Quarry does manage to showcase a strong sense of setting through a collection of developed, lived-in characters that turn their town into something we’re all familiar with.
The most electricity we get out of The Quarry is sparked between its two leading men, Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire) and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water). Both induce a certain level of magnetism into their individual scenes, but they are even more watchable when placed together. Whigham, particularly, carries a distinctively human expression of sorrow that, when juxtaposed with the harsh looming presence of Shannon, has a way of making you empathize with him even after witnessing his unforgivably gruesome crime. Bobby Soto and Catalina Sandino Moreno round out the supporting cast of town members and prove to be the worthy hearts of the film. Their characters not only effectively comment on the relevant undercurrents of racial inequality within small Texan communities, but they also provide the film’s most impactful sense of closure in their individual resolutions.
Although not every character’s ending that The Quarry has to offer feels entirely deserved, the ones that do make up for it. In its final moments, The Quarry quickly finds itself finally giving in to the violence, sentimentality, suspense, and justice that it was inevitably leading to. If only there could have been more of that earlier.