Shea Whigham as The Man
Michael Shannon as Chief Moore
Catalina Sandino Moreno as Celia
Bobby Soto as Valentin
Bruno Bichir as David Martin
Alvaro Martinez as Poco
Directed by Scott Teems and co-written by Teems and Andrew Brotzman
The Quarry Review:
The neo-Western genre is a rarely explored corner of the sparse, character-driven film world and if explored properly it can deliver some of the most compelling and fascinating stories seen on screen, with everything from the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water to the breath of superhero fresh air Logan, and now the Scott Teems-helmed crime thriller The Quarry has proven to stand as a worthy entry into the genre.
From the novel by Damon Galgut comes this searing thriller, a tale of sin and redemption set in the wilds of Texas. After murdering a traveling preacher, an unnamed fugitive drifter travels to a small town and poses as the man he killed. Though the congregation loves the drifter’s sermons of forgiveness, the local police chief is suspicious of the man. Soon a gruesome discovery at a local quarry forces the killer to fight for his freedom.
The film’s setup feels almost very reminiscent of the Clint Eastwood’s 1985 classic Pale Rider, with a mysterious man rolling into a small town and seemingly taking on the role of a preacher despite harboring a dark past, and yet it sets itself up to be a unique take on the formula by showing the audience outright that the unnamed man is not an outright good guy after having murdered the real priest in the opening minutes. Where Eastwood’s iconic film never revealed the origin of his cleric attire, raising questions that were never answered, the decision to reveal Whigham’s acquisition of the preacher position helps extend to the story’s exploration of its mysterious character.
Without ever fulling revealing his past, rather giving hinting flashbacks and a few bits of information sprinkled throughout, audiences are invited into the story’s intriguing dilemma of the fine line between good and bad people. While it’s focused on The Man, we start off seeing him murdering a preacher and taking on his identity, setting him up as a rather evil persona and yet through his sermons and most of his interactions with the small-town folk, we begin to want to feel sympathetic for him as he preaches about forgiveness.
In addition to offering a morally complex character in the unnamed lead, audiences are also treated to a truly fascinating character in the form of Michael Shannon’s Chief Moore. For the majority of the first two acts, we get the sense that Moore isn’t a bad man and yet at the same time, the way he treats his deputies and the fellow townsfolk, namely Celia, really drives viewers to want to have a strong distaste against him. His racism and intolerant behavior towards much of the townsfolk around him truly paint him as an awful human being and yet when we see him in the one-on-one scenes and behind closed doors, audiences get a glimpse of a kinder soul, helping tie into the film’s complex narrative of the moral ambiguity of the world.
These intricate characters are brought beautifully to life with powerful performances from leads Whigham and Shannon, with the former finally getting to shine in a lead role after killing it in the supporting actor’s game. Whigham has been an excellent actor in the 20-plus years he’s been on screen, with his recent performances in Kong: Skull Island, Boardwalk Empire and Vice Principals showing his range and yet The Quarry proved to be his best performance yet, delivering a quietly powerful turn that proves he has always been capable of being the leading man. When Whigham isn’t delivering a strong turn, the film is supported by a wonderful performance from Shannon in a role that’s atypical for the star, seeing him quietly brood rather than loud displays of intensity.
Though the film isn’t the most original effort for the genre, The Quarry‘s exploration of fascinating moral ambiguity is carried by stellar performances from Whigham and Shannon and is told with anxiety-inducing atmosphere and beautiful direction from Teems, resulting in a generally entertaining affair for genre enthusiasts and general audiences alike.
The Quarry is set to hit digital platforms and VOD on Friday!