Shotgun Stories

Critics Consensus

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

90%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 48

80%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,789
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Shotgun Stories Photos

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 Ligon). One day, Cleaman abandoned his wife and sons, and left them to survive in deep poverty that has trapped them to this day. Eventually Cleaman cleaned up his act, launched a successful business, married again, and raised four more sons -- Cleaman Jr. (Michael Abbott, Jr.), Mark (Travis Smith), Stephen (Lynsee Provence) and John (David Rhodes), all of whom were given the love and attention Cleaman denied his first three children. When Cleaman dies, all seven sons attend the funeral, and Son, overcome by bitterness, spits on his father's coffin and tells everyone how much he hated the man. Short tempered Mark answers Son with his fists, and a free-for-all breaks out between the two Hayes families. The anger and rivalry doesn't end at the end of the day, and soon a war has broken out between the clans, with no small amount of blood shed on either side. Shotgun Stories received its North American premiere at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Shotgun Stories

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (18)

  • 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.

    Aug 8, 2009 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Steve Rose

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • A precisely modulated yet cumulatively forceful story of a rural family feud turned deadly.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Eddie Cockrell

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

    Jul 9, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • ... here there's also an undercurrent of biblical revenge that lends the narrative a sense of violent menace and an almost continuous tension.

    Jun 6, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Few films are so observant about how we relate with one another. Few are as sympathetic.

    Jun 6, 2008 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Shotgun Stories

  • Jan 15, 2017
    Jeff Nichols' feature debut is a beautifully shot film about the consequences and cycle of violence, with memorable performances, judicious editing and great use of music. Looking back now, one of the greatest pleasures is seeing the potential Nichols has promised here being fully realised in later works like Take Shelter and Midnight Special, as well as the influence the film has had on works such as Blue Ruin.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Oct 22, 2014
    A slow, thoughtful, and brutally realistic look on a family torn apart by a father's infidelities, and after his death how violence erupts between the two families he started in his life. Michael Shannon, a method actor who is on the verge of typecasting himself as the "psycho" guy in movies, plays the part of a quiet man well. It is not a film for everyone because as said, it is paced almost to a crawl, but the character development and rising action are both well constructed by director Mike Nichols. If you like urban dramas that offer a different slice of life that are not seen in many movies, this is worth a view.
    Dan S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 29, 2013
    [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 10, 2013
    A fantastic debut for Jeff Nichols, Shotgun Stories is a deep atmospheric family thriller, approaching the cause/effect concept through very personal routes, aided by a brilliant lead performance by Michael Shannon. Try not to know anything from the story when first viewing it, it will just have a whole different impact, I can assure you. A very promising start to an already very good career for the director.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer

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