February 26, 2019 Bullitt County (Movie Review)
Arriving on DVD on Tuesday February 26, 2019 via Gravitas Ventures, first and foremost, Bullitt County is not connected to the 1968 Steve McQueen car chase film. That in mind, nor is it related to the upcoming 2019 film Chasing Bullitt. It does combine elements of both…well, okay, not really. The former is famous for its action, the latter is a drama, and Bullitt County bridges the gap by being an Action-Drama.
Written and directed by David McCracken (OstrichLand 2013, Rich is a Dick 2014), the film follows four friends who reunite for a bachelor party in 1977 Kentucky. There they learn of an old tale about a hoard of cash from the Prohibition era buried along the Bluegrass Bourbon Trail. Led by Gordie (Mike C.Nelson: Black-ish series, The Babysitter Murders 2015). Not the MST3K/Rifftrax one), Robin (Jenni Melear: Dead Dad 2012, New Girl 2014), Keaton (McCracken) and Wayne (Napoleon Ryan: Video Game Reunion 2011. Folklore 2012) join him on his journey. But all is not well. They have a shared dark secret from their past that is threatening to come back out. Turns out they are not the only ones on the trail.
The film certainly has the 1970s look sorted out. Feathered hair, floral patterns and big collars abound. Its more urbane Seventies bedfellows tend to have brighter colors, leaning on that yellow, orange and brown color scheme. But this film is far from Studio 54 or Hollywood. Its colours are more muted, fitting the humbler small town & woods setting. The desaturated colors make it feel a little more real in a way, like its setting is not just a reason to make Star Wars and disco references.
It does start out resembling a madcap comedy, with a wacky adventure off to Kentucky to get drunk at a distillery that is now a winery for folksy old people. The cast even have good chemistry with each other, putting on a convincing display of old friends having fun. Whether it is McCracken’s Keaton being wild, Melear’s Robin reflecting on James Joyce, or Ryan’s Wayne acting as the voice of reason. But it does tease at the darkness at the heart of their relationship with Nelson’s Gordie. He likes fun, but the film slowly peels through his layers, and what looks like a brown spot at first turns out to be bigger and deeper than realized.
It does this through some deft camerawork. Like 24-esque simultaneous cuts, showing two different scenes at the same time. Or getting the point across through close-ups, shifts in focus to highlight certain characters, or quick cuts of other scenes to resemble flashbacks. One particularly nice, if grim scene has the action continue in the background while the camera focuses on McCracken’s frozen state. He was having the most fun before, but it all stops here. It is a relatively simple-sounding scene, yet its camerawork, sound design and acting reveal more than the dialogue does.
Does Bullitt County have any downsides though? It is hard to point them out, unless one goes picking for nits. Some of the camera and sound flourishes get a little distracting but they are blips in an otherwise solid production. Its final twists are a little trite on the surface, yet they are stronger examples of their tropes. Keener minds might even pick up on the clues the film leaves about them as it goes on. Yet the film still manages to fit in a few surprises.
Suppose one notable one would be Gordie’s bride-to-be. It is a bachelor party setting, yet no one really brings her up or discusses her one way or the other. The film is ultimately about the relationship between Gordie and his friends, though the absent fiance could have done with a little lip service at least.
However, Bullitt County is still a great watch. The acting is strong, the camera and sound are on point, and it tells a great story of comedy turning into tragedy. That does not mean it is a bummer to watch, but it should give audiences food for thought. In other words, it is a sad film than a depressing one. It makes one reflect on the film and its characters than hate the world. As such, Bullitt County is well worth picking up on release date, and Cryptic Rock give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.