Bahrani fills the frame with weathered faces and "At Any Price" feels like it unfolds in something close to the real America. But he wants to give us larger-than-life drama, and his strengths are life-sized.
Written and played with a little more subtlety, Henry and his contradictions could have been fascinating; as it is, "At Any Price" keeps us at a distance, gazing at characters who never quite come to life.
If the story is a bit all over the place - and what the heck is Heather Graham doing in this picture besides looking great? - the solid work from Quaid and Efron helps iron out a few of the bumpy bits.
In the end, "At Any Price" strikes a dark, even ghastly tone, and rather suddenly it becomes a cynical commentary on small-town hypocrisy and American business. It's hard to tell whether that was the intention.
The narrative takes a surprising turn, leading to a troubling and, I think, successful third act. Most uneven pictures have a way of fading to gray in the final lap; this one actually gets better as it goes.
If "At Any Price" overstates its points, they are still worth making. And the hot-wired performances by Mr. Quaid and Mr. Efron drive them home in a movie that sticks to your ribs and stays in your head.