Sword of Trust

The personal meets the political through improvisation.

When a film’s promotional material describes it as “a shaggy dog tale” which was “created by the raw talent of its able cast,” it’s reasonable to translate that as “an improv exercise with no payoff or point.” And though mostly improvised, Lynn Shelton’s Sword of Trust isn’t quite so frustrating. Mel (Marc Maron) is an Alabama pawnshop owner whose sole employee is the credulous, mostly useless Nathaniel (Jon Bass). Enter Mary (Michaela Watkins) and Cynthia (Jillian Bell), looking to sell the Confederate sword once owned by Cynthia’s grandfather who believed the sword was proof the South won the war.

Realizing it could net five figures from what the promo material euphemistically describes as “fans of revisionist history,” the foursome journey into that #MAGA underworld, where they encounter Hog Jaws (Toby Huss) and the more duplicitous Kingpin (Dan Bakkedahl). It fizzles out as shaggy-dog stories must, yet Sword of Trust remains engaging thanks to the refined talent of its experienced cast. The heart of the film is a 10-minute sequence of the four principals in a small space where they have nothing to do but talk about things unrelated to the sword business. The typically one-note Maron shows a wider range here, and it’s the one scene in the film you can fully trust.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.

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