When you hear a film described as a “small town crime/noir story” you can be pretty damn confident in what is in store for you. The last fifteen minutes is always going to be filled with betrayal, there’s almost always one girl in a group of guys, and the promise of a better life away from the small town is always, always a motivator. Really emphasizing the desire to get away, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” knows exactly what sort of beats to hit and it knows how to hit them well.
In “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, small town Texas is the arid and dusty place to get out of. The unfortunately named BJ (Logan Huffman), a cocky farmhand, has no chance in Hell of ever leaving, but his best friend Bobby (Jeremy Allen White) and his girlfriend Sue (Mackenzie Smith) are soon to leave, off to what they hope will be a better life at college. Getting up to no good like all bad boys do, BJ steals a big chunk of change from their boss, which obviously backfires. After spending the cash at a resort Bobby takes the heat for the theft, and the three of them have to rob a gangster to pay the money back. Plot wise it’s all standard fair, but who can say no to a simple and well told story of deceit and dreams?
“Keep riding the same bus route you’ll end up missing where you’re supposed to get off.”
Making their feature length debut, directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins are confident and keep a steady hand behind the camera. Many small budget crime flicks try to make up for their smaller budget with crazy camera angles and convoluted, tricky plots,but the Hawkins’ have enough faith in their skill and the screenplay to keep things simple.
It’s the characters that provide the little flourishes to “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Sue and Bobby are well realized in ways that go beyond simply being the smart girl and the dumb friend. Sue has a deep affection for books, and her desire to get Bobby to read more is a nice touch to their friendship, and is a good way to contrast their sweetness with BJ’s ruthlessness. BJ might be a hard cruel kid due to mockery about his name, or maybe it’s just the Texas in him, but he’s one bad dude. Logan Huffman rides the line between sleaze and sociopath well, providing some real menace to his scenes with Mackenzie Smith.
“With a mouth like that who needs an asshole?”
Even with the Hawkins’ direction and pacing hitting all of the right crime story beats, the film still needs a bolt of energy to keep it from becoming stale. Mark Pellegrino is this bolt of energy. He’s been doing amazing and menacing work for two decades now, most notably as Jacob on “Lost” and Lucifer on “Supernatural,” and his calm and casual attitude towards villainy makes for the best scenes. His character Gif is crass and dumb (his safe combination is 69 69 69 for god sake), and his crude humour provides a lovely reprieve from the darker stuff going on between BJ, Bobby, and Sue.
All in all, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” is exactly the kind of movie it wants to be. At a lean 92 minutes it spins a nice twisty yarn of rebellious youth and deceit that never gets out of control with too much bloodshed or twists. The core trio of Logan Huffman, Mackenzie Smith, and Jeremy Allen White work wonderfully together, and show real promise. Unfortunately “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” doesn’t have a distributor yet, so it could be a year or two until you get to see it. When it does get released though, it should definitely be on your list of films to see.