Director: David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster

Year: 2013

With about as underrated a case as you will ever come across, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a movie buff’s paradise of unrecognized talent, dedication to mood, and general slow burn.  Those aspects don’t always appeal to your average audience member, and more often than not they’re over-utilized when brought into a project, resulting in a film that not even critics can enjoy.  Luckily for us, or at least for those looking for a little more depth to their classic, Texan crime story, this movie delivers the subtle aspects of solid film-making while not becoming an art house buzz kill.  It successfully blends popular with indie, creating a deep tone while also giving us plot.  Straddling both worlds, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has the potential to be a crowd-pleaser and a respectable nod to the critical mind, though its lack of accolades might suggest that I’m the only one who thinks so.

In Texas a few decades back, a love story unfolds that is as tragic as it is beautiful.  Bob & Ruth are inseparable sweethearts, both taken in by a man they now view as a father, Skerritt, along with his son who has become a best friend.  The trio do odd jobs for Skerritt, mostly criminal, amassing a long list of enemies along the way, only a few of which are federal.  One particular job goes particularly wrong, ending in a shootout with the coppers where one officer gets shot, one friend dies, and the other two give themselves up.  With Ruth pregnant, Bob takes the fall, but vows to escape from prison one day to come back for his girl, or for his girls rather, including the daughter that’s on the way.  Four years later and Bob hasn’t forgotten his promise, Ruth hasn’t forgotten her baby’s daddy, and the town won’t ever forgive the young criminals who were so deeply in love.

A nice mix of artistic and grounded cinema, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has a little something for everyone.  It’s mood-driven, with intentional music, focused cinematography, and a dark atmosphere that should appease the most critical movie-goer.  But it also brings a few typical ingredients to the table, including a revenge story, a father figure, gangsters, shoot-outs, love, redemption, choosing between two diverging paths.  There’s a lot here that should appeal to audience members from various groups, resulting in a film that shouldn’t completely disappoint anyone.  It isn’t O Brother bold or Out of the Furnace heavy, but a good combination of both.  Affleck, such an underrated actor, is superb here, as is Mara in a pre-Carol role, and Foster, who I’ve always enjoyed & should be given a ton of credit for rising above his childhood stardom.  It won’t go down as the best of its year, nor can I claim that I’ll remember it forever, but what we have here is a solid film with solid pieces, something to respect.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



By ochippie

Writer, Critic, Dad Columbus, Ohio, USA Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Avalanche, Duke Blue Devils