‘A Single Shot’ takes too much time to get nowhere much

William H. Macy has distractingly funny hair in the dramatic thriller "A Single Shot." Credit: Tribeca Film/Well Go USA Entertainment.
William H. Macy has distractingly funny hair in the dramatic thriller “A Single Shot.”
Credit: Tribeca Film/Well Go USA Entertainment

‘A Single Shot’
Director: David M. Rosenthal
Stars: Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

Has anybody in a movie ever happened upon a large sum of money and gone on to live happily ever after? Shadows of “A Simple Plan” and “No Country for Old Men” loom large over “A Single Shot,” director David M. Rosenthal’s molasses-paced adaptation of Matthew F. Jones’ 1996 novel.

Things haven’t been going well for John Moon (Sam Rockwell). He’s been bouncing from job to job ever since the bank foreclosed on his family farm, spending occasional weekends in jail whenever he gets caught poaching deer up at the nature conservancy. John’s wife (Kelly Reilly) took their kid and moved out some time ago; she keeps asking for a divorce but he won’t sign the papers. Life goes from crummy to downright miserable when another illegal hunting trip ends with John accidentally shooting a young woman dead.

Whatever she was doing camping alone in the woods with a big box stuffed full of cash is something we’ll find out later. That becomes much, much later, as it turns out, because nobody is ever going to accuse “A Single Shot” of being in a hurry. After the shocking opening sequence Rosenthal and screenwriter Jones (adapting his own book) slam on the brakes, idling around the grungy margins of a recession-ravaged rural community where John raises eyebrows by throwing around money like he’s suddenly got it.

There are plenty of grimy characters but precious little suspense. Jeffrey Wright staggers through scenes as Moon’s blotto best bud, making a meal out of some filthy drunken monologues that typify the movie’s queasy sexuality. When John tries to visit his son he finds the babysitter naked, watching porn with icky ex-con Obadiah Cornish (Joe Anderson), who may know more about Moon’s secret windfall than he’s letting on. Ditto for William H. Macy’s folksy lawyer, offering sly insinuations under cover of bad fashions and a worse toupee.

“A Single Shot” was filmed in the Vancouver mountains under the gray-skied chill of encroaching winter, yet for some reason the actors sport spotty Southern accents. (Maybe that’s just how they think all poor people talk.) In the lead role, Rockwell tamps down his natural manic magnetism, at times vanishing behind his considerable beard. It’s unclear why exactly we’re supposed to root for John Moon save for that he’s slightly less disgusting than everybody else. The movie plods unpleasantly toward inevitable tragedy, after which you will probably want a shower.


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