Written and directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Douglas Ligon, Barlow Jacobs, Michael Abbott Jr.
Following the death of their father, half-brothers become locked in an intense feud. Soon the contention turns to violence as both sides learn the cost of their anger.
This is a somewhat unknown film written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special). The film stars Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Douglas Ligon (Mud), Barlow Jacobs (The Master), and Michael Abbott Jr. (Loving).
The tale told in Shotgun Stories is a familiar one. The idea of a family divided has been used many times. This one builds the story on the backdrop of rural Arkansas. The characters are written in a very expected way, with many of the rural stereotypes being found. Based on the way they’re written, the characters are hard to connect with and fall a bit flat overall. There is also an attempt made to shroud Michael Shannon’s character in mystery. This attempt is unfortunately weak, and fails to create the hook that Nichols was likely going for. The story has some great possibilities but doesn’t seem to find any way to resolve the many conflicts. While I didn’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up, I would’ve like to see a little more commitment to the conclusion. Overall, this has some good moments but feels incomplete.
The actors did a great job with this film. Despite the weaker story the performances were solid. Michael Shannon did a great job working with the lead role in the movie. He does such a good job using silence and expression to communicate when the dialogue isn’t there. He also did a good job playing a very simple and direct man with a chip on his shoulder. The rest of the cast all do a nice job as well. Douglas Ligon, Barlow Jacobs, and Michael Abbott Jr. all added nice performances as well. While the material wasn’t great, the cast did some nice work.
The visuals in this one are simple and straightforward. The camera seems to sit still for most of the movie. This allows the film to linger on every moment. This doesn’t always work, and the editing didn’t help to pace the film properly. Overall this one looks right and sounds right, but doesn’t often impress. Fans of the stars might enjoy seeing their performances, but the story falls a bit short. I give this one 2.4 out of 5 stars.