Movie Review – “Small Town Crime”

“Clever. Shocking. One of the best crime dramas in recent years.”

-Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

This latest film by writer/director brothers Ian and Eshom Nelms takes viewers on a frantic murder investigation by an alcoholic ex-cop trying to prove that he can still make a difference. Stellar acting throughout the cast delivers a solid script in this high-stakes crime drama.

Long-time character actor John Hawkes (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) steps up into the lead film role as dismissed police officer Mike Kendall, who discovers a severely injured and dying teenager on the side of a road. Armed only with beer and an occasional cup of black coffee, Hawkes must find the homicide suspects before other young women fall victim to the brutal killers.

“Small Town Crime” is a smartly written, fast-paced story about so much more than just good detective work. Hawkes, teamed with a sensational Anthony Anderson and the powerhouse Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, magnificently transforms himself from a law enforcement outsider into a determined and relevant private investigation insider.  

This film’s deeper story goes back to the death and destruction left in the wake of Hawkes’ past police work. The dark circumstances surrounding his former line of work play out for us in a series of shocking flashbacks. The ex-cop’s alcoholism only masks his underlining problems—unemployment and strained relations with his friends, family, and old coworkers.

The story’s best feature is the growth of Hawkes personal relationships and regained crime-solving mojo. His character’s struggles are real and remain so until the end—never completely erased or hidden from view of the audience. The movie’s other main character roles are nicely explained and fully invested into the bigger picture…bringing clarity and passion to the audience.    

In easily his finest performance to date, Hawkes shines in this crisply told whodunit. A clever, shocking, tightrope drama, “Small Town Crime” perfectly establishes the hardships and issues faced by the ex-police officer turned private investigator. The superb supporting cast moves this action-packed thriller at a brisk pace coupled with timely bouts of humor. Violent scenes are earmarked by seconds of warning, sidestepping any jumpy moments for viewers.

One of the best crime dramas in recent years, “Small Town Crime” mixes old-fashion police work with one’s struggle to get back on his feet. Hawkes effortlessly carries the film with this breakout headliner performance. A muscle car and rough edges can’t hide Hawkes’ good heart or his attempt to make a difference in others’ lives.

“Small Town Crime” opens in theaters and on Video On-Demand this Friday.

Grade: B+


“Small Town Crime” is rated R for strong violence, language, and some sexual references. Its running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.


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