Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the dark comedy/noir SMALL CRIMES by writer/director E. L. Katz. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“A disgraced former cop, fresh off a six-year prison sentence for attempted murder – returns home looking for redemption but winds up trapped in the mess he left behind.”
The opening scene sets the tone better than most features in recent memory. We start with our lead talking about his prison, his sobriety, and his desire to see his daughters again. The speech has a warm honesty to it that seems to set up our protagonist’s quests. Then, with just a few, clipped words, he completely tears apart everything he just said, as if it was all a show for his listener.
In many ways, this idea of subverting expectations sums up much of how this film treats its audience. Those who get in on the joke from this opening, and I have to imagine most people will, are going to find a clever noir that will turn from genuine to dark humor within the space of seconds. These shifts might be quick, but they still manage to feel organic since they are natural extensions of what we know about the characters.
The different roles are expertly enacted by the cast, who hit the genuine and dark beats with perfect measure. While all of the actors do a fine job in their portrayals, I feel the need to single out Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for bringing a likable sliminess to his character. Part of the reason we root for this no account degenerate is that he brings pitch perfect comedic timing and some hilarious facial reactions to the role that make him seem just as surprised about the madness surrounding him as the audience.
I have to say that while the beginning is carried by the acting and humor, the second half gets pretty darn outrageous. It makes sense, given how much setup was done during act one, but it still went much more out there than I imagined. This made the lead up to the finale thrilling, dynamic, and incredibly memorable since everything that had been built up came to a bloody head.
All in all, this is a fun noir piece with a dark comedic wit. The performances kept me entertained throughout act one until they started toppling over the dominoes in the back half. Those who love crime thrillers with lowlife characters and a dark wit like KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012) or IN BRUGES (2008) will find this to be right up their alley.