(director/writer: Josh Doke;  cinematographer: Iain Trimble; editor: Edward Schroer; music: Nathan Towns; cast: Matt Weiss (Ergo Raines),  Cinnamon Schultz (Sheriff Georgette Gaines), Sara Kennedy (Ida Flowers), Jason Curtis Miller (Guy) Kip Niven (Hal Bloom), Chris Bylsma (Dan Richter), Rick Folten (Deputy Mike Carr), Brian Huther (Deputy Dean Francis), Sam Jones (Kilmer), Walter Coppage (Jim Michaelson); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Josh DokeJ.S. Hampton; Parade Deck Films; 2017)

It’s not Fargo, it’s Kansas.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s not Fargo, it’s Kansas that’s the setting for this tense small town crime drama. It’s written and directed with an edge by Josh Doke, in his feature film debut.

The body of a drunk drifter from Michigan, with many priors and a smashed burner cellphone, is found run over by a combine harvester in a corn field in Goodland, Kansas. The same day a photographer from Michigan, Ergo Raines (Matt Weiss), arrives in the small farming community and arouses the suspicion of the female sheriff Georgette Gaines (Cinnamon Schultz) when he tells her he’s taking photographs in town, using an old-fashioned camera, for a book on small towns in America.

It leads to evidence coming slowly into view that confirms the sheriff’s suspicions were on the money. Meanwhile we see how alcoholism besets the desolate town (a few years ago experiencing an oil boom and now a downfall in its economy), how horny is the flirty teen receptionist (Sara Kennedy) at the cheap motel where Ergo has booked a room for 5-days and how flat and empty is the terrain (that seems to be better equipped for growing corn than anything else).

As for the law–there’s the divorced, recovering alcoholic sheriff who has a good nose for sniffing out trouble; her two loyal and dutiful
deputies (Rick Folten & Brian Huther); and the retired and ailing former sheriff (Kip Niven) who acts as the wise and kindly mentor to the instinctive sheriff.

The acting is good, the wasteland atmosphere is fully captured in the photography and the reason Ergo (rhymes with Fargo) is in town is answered violently by the third act.

It might not be as good a film or as funny as the Coen brother’s Fargo, but the filmmaker learned something from them. The thriller caught my interest as a quirky modern day rural noir shot in color,  and it offers the same bleakness as did the postwar B/W noirs (films that also told us the booming economy didn’t work for everyone).