Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jacki Weaver, Robert Forster, Molly Parker, Gary Cole,
He will forever be known as The Kingslayer to Game of Thrones fans, but Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is one of the more successful actors outside of the hit television show. A supporting actor in Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, and 1000 Time Goodnight, Waldau finally earns a leading role in Small Crimes. Here is plays a far cry from the dashing Jamie Lanister, greying, withered and poorly dressed. Small Crimes is an ugly film, the upstate New York location, the characters and their methods, but most of all the behavior. Waldau is in great company with Oscar nominees Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) and Forster (Jackie Brown) playing his parents. Hook and bait, that’s what it doesn’t have in the first two acts, to get the viewer to stick around for the pretty surprising third act.
Known as “The Slash Cop”, Joe Denton (Waldau) returns home after doing six years in prison. A disgrace to the local police force, an embarrassment to his parents, he says, he’s changed. The first thing he wants to do is see his wife and little girls, but they have a moved away and want no contact with him. He decides to turn in his sobriety coin at the local bar where things get ugly and he lands himself in jail face to face with the scarred DA (Michael Kinney) he was imprisoned for attacking. It turns out Joe was not only the fall guy for a corrupt cop/criminal establishment, but also a puppet on a string that is put back in motion on his return. “You don’t get extra points for simply doing what’s required. What everyone else does,” his mother (Weaver) says.
Hook and bait, that’s what it doesn’t have in the first two acts, to get the viewer to stick around for the pretty surprising third act.
SXSW is being called to task over the programming of this film and Small Town Crime starring John Hawkes and Octavia Spencer. Not only are the titles similar and interchangeable, but the plot and leading characters, both disgraced alcoholic cops, are embarrassingly similar. Neither film is very good, both lack structure and originality. However, both are anchored by strong male leads and backed up by impressive supporting actors. Another similarity to Small Town Crime, both films have better third acts and conclusions than anything else. The final bewildering resemblance is that Forster appears in both films as the father figure.
Despite starring in both films, Forster plays against his usual curmudgeon casting call as a sympathetic father, that element could have been explored than the hand full of short scenes we get. Weaver, nearly unrecognizable, isn’t the sweet caring mother this time, but nowhere near her Animal Kingdom role. E.L. Katz, with only one other feature under his belt, teases too much of the information for too long. Katz’s script has a lot of characters, and he does eventually give them all a purpose, but it’s a slow pace to get there. Small Crimes saving grace is the shocking ending, which isn’t just one thing or another, but a culmination of decisions coming to fruition.
Waldau in a vastly different, leading, performance is good, but majority of the film isn’t fulfilling.