If Eshom and Ian Nelm’s Small Town Crime sounds more like a Netflix category than a title, it’s appropriate for a film that combines familiar elements — including what may be the first but surely not the last “You look like shit” of 2018 — without finding a new spin on them. Haunted by the death of his partner, alcoholic ex-cop Mike (John Hawkes) hopes to find redemption by investigating the death of a sex worker, leading him into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse in his small town’s criminal underworld.
The story’s roteness can perhaps be chalked up to Small Town Crime’s fancying itself a throwback to gritty 1970s detective movies, including a score that’s an homage to Lalo Schifrin. But it’s set in the present, and there are off-putting moments throughout, such as references to Mike’s brother-in-law Teddy (Anthony Anderson) having been attacked by a “pervert” in a bar bathroom. It doesn’t factor into the plot at all, but we can all agree gays sure are predatory, right? There’s also something depressing about the fact that Clifton Collins, Jr. still has to play pimps, but at least Small Town Crime pairs him up with another great character actor, Robert Forster. If the hinted-at sequel focuses on Forster and Collins, Jr., all will be forgiven.
Opens Friday at the Presidio.