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Shotgun Stories (2007)



Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 44
Fresh: 40 | Rotten: 4

Thanks to a talented cast and its uncommon depth, Nichols' debut manages to rise above its overly familiar plot.


Average Rating: 7.1/10
Critic Reviews: 15
Fresh: 13 | Rotten: 2

Thanks to a talented cast and its uncommon depth, Nichols' debut manages to rise above its overly familiar plot.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 4,148

My Rating

Movie Info

Two families linked by the same father explode into a violent rivalry in this independent Southern gothic drama, the first feature from director Jeff Nichols. Cleaman Hayes lived and died in Little Rock, AR, where he had seven sons by two different women. After wedding Nicole (Natalie Canerday), Cleaman sired three sons, and his lack of concern for their future was reflected in the fact he barely gave them names -- they were dubbed Son (Michael Shannon), Kid (Barlow Jacobs) and Boy (Douglas

Jul 1, 2008

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All Critics (45) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (4) | DVD (2)

A precisely modulated yet cumulatively forceful story of a rural family feud turned deadly.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Director Jeff Nichols lets the action unfold slowly following an impromptu insult, but the escalation of hatred and pain feels natural.

July 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

... here there's also an undercurrent of biblical revenge that lends the narrative a sense of violent menace and an almost continuous tension.

June 6, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Few films are so observant about how we relate with one another. Few are as sympathetic.

June 6, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Shotgun Stories is a cautionary tale about revenge, but more than that, it is a beautiful, authentic-feeling portrait of a family and a place.

April 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An austere rural landscape, festering hatred, class tensions, terse dialogue -- these are common currency in indie movies these days. Shotgun Stories uses them all, but manages to stand out from the crowd.

April 4, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic once a small, regional tale and something mythic.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm

There is indeed something mythical, even scriptural, about the struggle among the seven Hayes brothers in Jeff Nichols' remarkable Shotgun Stories.

April 28, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

There is much to "Shotgun Stories" that elevates it above the fray of Green derivatives and unflattering categorizations, bolstered by a roster of naturalistic, fully assimilated performances, led by "Bug"'s now ubiquitous Michael Shannon.

August 8, 2009 Full Review Source: indieWIRE

Good natural performances.

February 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The credentials of many festival screenings might suggest to alert viewers that this isn't a shoot 'em up between two hill billy clans

December 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Like Malick, Nichols knows that the sight of a combine transforming an Arkansas cotton field into an apocalyptic dust storm is as eloquent as anything his characters might say.

November 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

Set in rural Arkansas, Jeff Nichols' relaxed, distinctive debut revels in the milieu of its redneck characters, but injects their rural half-blood feud with an almost mythic quality.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian

Brilliantly acted, superbly directed and beautifully shot, this is a gripping drama that really gets under your skin and marks writer-director Jeff Nichols out as a talent to watch.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

Writer/director Jeff Nichols is one to watch. He has fashioned a simple but powerful cautionary tale, equal parts Southern Gothic and Greek tragedy, and has given a familiar kind of material a fresh spin.

October 18, 2008

I'm sick of the kind of exceptional that Shotgun Stories represents.

September 2, 2008 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

The real key to the film is the commanding Michael Shannon.

August 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Cinematical

The end reveals just how poetic, shifting and dazzling Nichols' touch was all along. That's because Shotgun Stories manages to pull away from a hair-trigger resolution with the same inherent right-ness that loaded the story with such tragic force.

July 10, 2008 Full Review Source: Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

This low-key yarn about lowbrow men isn't for everyone. But whatever its faults and limitations, Shotgun Stories casts a spell unlike any other movie we've seen in ages.

June 20, 2008
Kansas City Star

Jeff Nichols modern Western is laconic and lazily captivating, its silence slowly building to rage.

May 15, 2008 Full Review Source: I.E. Weekly | Comment (1)
I.E. Weekly

An allegory of our times, Shotgun Stories is a tragedy of biblical scale and an intimate family drama.

May 8, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

It's clearly a labor of love and no doubt true to some regional ways and attitudes. But jeez, it's self-parodic, and all the more so for taking place in some uncharted corner of Dixie where nobody has the slightest sense of humor.

April 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Daily News | Comment (1)
Los Angeles Daily News

Audience Reviews for Shotgun Stories

July 29, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

Son Hayes: We don't own the square-root of shit.

Shotgun Stories was the directorial debut of Jeff Nichols and it also was his first collaboration with Michael Shannon. Before the two would go on to make a masterpiece with Take Shelter, they made this masterpiece, that I may like even more then Take  Shelter. I love the way in which Nichols makes movies. This guy has a pace that's all his own and he isn't afraid of moving slow and keeping his films strangely quiet. It helps even more that he saw how perfect Michael Shannon was for this story, and also Take Shelters. Shannon is the perfect actor to keep a quiet movie like this going for an hour and a half. 

This film involves two sides of a family. One is brother, Son, Kid, and Boy, who's father left them, when they were young. The other is the fathers second family he made in the same Arkansas town. The two families hate each other. When the father dies, Son shows up at the funeral and insults his dead father, which sets off a chain reaction. As the feud escalates, inevitable questions about the worth of the fight come up.

The story unfolds slowly, and never really speeds up the whole runtime. Nichols knows exactly how to take his time with his films and I love his style. The film looks beautiful and has some beautiful music as well. The cast, although mostly unknowns to me, is phenomenal and really drive home the down south, country element of the film nicely.

Shotgun Stories is one of the best films I've seen in quite a while. I know it isn't a well known film, but seek this one out at all costs. It just shows the excellence that is Nichols and Shannon. Especially watch this if you've seen Take Shelter and enjoyed it. Shotgun Stories is extremely similar to that one in tone and how it is made. This is a masterpiece.
May 26, 2013
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

'Shotgun Stories'. As far as revenge tales go, this small scale, deeply personal affair is up there with the best of them.

Jeff Nichols manages to pack in an insane amount of character development, unease and rich dialogue in 90 tight minutes that a lot of films would have trouble doing in twice the time. The mundanity of rural life, the bonds between brothers, the ever-increasing tension, all played out in perfect harmony.

Michael Shannon is once again a fitting leading man. Gosh I love his gangly walk and the emotions the expressions his face can create!

There are no heroes or villains here. Just people doing what they truly believe is the best thing for their loved ones. That's what makes it all the more tragic.
September 23, 2012

Super Reviewer

In 2011, relatively unknown writer/director Jeff Nichols took a lot of people by surprise when he delivered one of the best films of the year in "Take Shelter". However, four years prior to that he had already made his debut with Shotgun Stories which was a film that shared a similar downbeat tone. Despite being seen by very few, this impressive debut showed a strong ability from this new director.
In the back roads of South East Arkansas, three close brothers, Son (Michael Shannon), Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacobs) hear the news of their estranged fathers death. They attend the funeral if only to relate their vehement hatred of the man as he abandoned them in their youth and started a new family. As result of this, their fathers other sons (and half brothers to them) get involved in a feud that reaches dangerous and deadly proportions.
I always find it quite interesting watching the debut of a director you admire, especially when you've been introduced to them at a later date and find yourself looking back at their earlier material just to see where they honed their skills. In this case, it's easy to where Jeff Nichols is coming from. Like "Take Shelter", this film starts off at a deliberate pace. It's in no hurry to tell it's story and favours a slow approach to build up it's characters and the mundane lifestyles they lead. It may be a little slow for some but the story here is all very deliberate and naturally handled. Nichols certainly has an eye for small town America and with help from cinematographer Adam Stone, he effectively captures the vast emptiness of the town which also reflects in the emptiness of the characters' lives. Everything about this film is subtle and understated but all the more brooding and effective for it. Performance wise, there are some faults with the lesser known actors but as always, Shannon delivers a solid show and with scars on his back that resemble shotgun shells, it only serves to fuel the films enigmatic nature and understated detail. When the feud between the half brothers takes hold, the muted first half of the film turns to one of tension as it reaches tragic Shakespearean heights that's handled very impressively and never succumbs to formula. By this, there lies the question on whether the denouement will be as satisfactory as it could be but Nichols' handling is undeniably good and it makes for an impressive debut from him. It's not quite as good as "Take Shelter" but this is a director that has started strongly, backed it up with one of the best film's of 2011 and I believe will continue to go from strength to strength - time will tell with his forthcoming film "Mud" released later in 2012.
Like "Take Shelter", Nichols dealt with events that had almost biblical proportions and when looking at this you can see that he shares a similar theme. This is a highly accomplished debut from one the most exciting new directors to reach our screens.
August 21, 2012

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