(director: Ben Young; screenwriters: Robert Knott/based on the novel Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy & Knott; cinematographer: Michael McDermot; editor: Merlin Eden; music: Adam Spark; cast: Billy Bob Thornton (Charlie), Emma Booth (Charlie’s Wife), Hopper Penn (Jacob McNeely), Robin Wright (Virgie), Katelyn Nacon (Maggie), Jackie Earle Haley (Sheriff), Harrison Gilbertson (Deputy), Griff Furst (Coach Cooper), David Kallaway (Gerald Cabe), Jared Bankens (Jeremy Cabe), Brian D’Arcy James (Bo, Maggie’s DA stepfather); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Griff Furst/Josh Kesselman/Jamie Hilton/Robert Knott/Robin Wright; Screen Media Films; 2023)

“The characters and the story are cliches.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The dark thriller directed by Ben Young (“Hounds of Love”/”Extinction“) is based on the best-selling crime novel Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy & Robert Knott, and is scripted by Knott. The characters and the story are cliches.

The film turns on the hellish relationship between the ruthless drug-kingpin of a crystal meth operation, with a skinhead appearance, Charie McNeely (Billy Bob Thornton), and his restless, lost soul 18-year-old son Jacob (Hopper Penn, Robin Wright’s and Sean Penn’s son). Family members include Charlie’s hot and much younger girlfriend (Emily Booth) and his just paroled ex-con junkie ex-wife–Jacob’s mom, Virgie (Robin Wright).

It’s set in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, where everyone in the rural Jackson County town is connected with the meth business.

Jacob relates well to his gentle mom, but not to his violent dad. The kid has had it with dad and wants to flee from the area with his girlfriend Maggie (Katelyn Nacon) and begin a new life. Maggie is the step-daughter of Bo (Brian d’Arcy James), the local DA, who opposes the drug syndicate.

The only other character who makes an impression is the local sheriff (Jackie Earle Haley) who treats Jacob like a son.

Though the cast is generally good, the script is not. It results in a listless and pointless crime drama.