(director: Anthony Jerjen; screenwriter: Andrew Crabtree; cinematographer: Nicholas Wiesnet; editors: Kiran Pallegadda, Dominic LaPerriere; music: Patrick Kirst; cast: Josh Hartnett (Kip Riley), Bruce Dern (Clay Carter), Margarita Levieva (Josie Conley), Valorie Curry (Eve), Owen Teague (Boots), Dash Mihok (Kyle Knox), Chandler Riggs (Cooper), Brad William Henke (Tedd Wallace), Tara Buck (Eliza), Jared Banken (Marcus), Blaine Kern III (Ryan); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Michel Merkt, Benito Mueller; Lionsgate; 2019)

“Never had much of a sting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The feature debut by Anthony Jerjen is an underwhelming crime thriller about the dangers faced by a young opioid drug dealing family in Appalachia (set in a small town in Ohio). Andrew Crabtree’s uninteresting script fails to keep things suspenseful in its all too familiar modern-day story of the evils of illegal drugs.The three siblings of the Conley clan, the twentysomething emotionally conflicted former military man Kip Riley (Josh Hartnett), his wide-eyed younger brother Boots (Owen Teague) and hard-boiled sister Josie Conley (Margarita Levieva), have since the death of their criminal father (dying in prison) survived as small-time drug dealers of painkillers. It’s a business they inherited from dad. Their mom is deceased.

Kip and Josie deal the painkillers to the working-class locals of their economically-depressed community who can’t get prescriptions. Even after the overdose death of a female factory worker Josie sold the drugs to, who is found on the bathroom floor of the disabled old codger Clay Carter’s (Bruce Dern) seedy bar, the crime partner of her late dad, she still shows no remorse.

Kip has a pregnant girlfriend and has second thoughts about drug dealing, trying to find a clean way out. While the younger brother only clamors to also start dealing and gets caught-up in making a side deal that backfires.

The main story revolves around Kip’s efforts to get out of the sordid business and Boots’ effort to get into it.

Since the story takes place mostly at night, the visuals are dark and the high number of violent incidents are not clearly seen.

The plodding film wastes time over a subplot it never does much with, that has the local sheriff (Dash Mihok) doing nothing about Josie, whom he knows is dealing but lays off her because they once had an affair.

The life lessons for the coming-of-age film were hardly refreshing and never had much of a sting.

REVIEWED ON 1/14/2020  GRADE: C+