Small Town Murder Songs - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Small Town Murder Songs Reviews

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½ November 7, 2014
"The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be still."

The oddly and evocatively titled "Small Town Murder Songs" is a stark, powerful drama that in brief outline can sound mistakenly as it turns out -- very much like a police procedural. Instead, it's a character study about a man desperately trying to hold onto some sense of himself while squeezed in a psychological, spiritual, and professional vise. Toronto writer/director Gass-Donnelly combines powerful imagery to a thundering score rich in percussion and choral singing, created by Bruce Peninsula. Rarely does cinema and music mesh as boldly as this. It's a fairly straightforward movie told in a very brief 75 minutes -- every scene carries weight, and nothing is wasted.

Set in a tiny Mennonite community in the lovely rural heartlands outside of London, Ontario, where Walter (Peter Stormare) is an aging police officer who is investigating the murder of a young women whose naked body was found dumped in the weeds on the outskirts of town. Walter must do his job, but his current investigation involves something from his past. He is a man haunted with regret, searching for forgiveness and deliverance, which only accentuates the poignancy of his current situation.

Stormare delivers a tremendous performance, completely inhabiting his character. He superbly conveys the interior torment of a violent man attempting to live and work as a peacemaker, but you have to wonder if he couldn't have used a bit more of a back story. The story is so lean, we really don't know enough about Walter to fully appreciate the burden he must bear. The musical score elevates this otherwise bare film, truly enhancing this simple story while adding emotional depth in place of the ambiguity of its characters. Between Stormare's performance, the cinematography, and the forceful atmospheric music, "Small Town Murder Songs" achieves a unique kind of splendor.
April 16, 2014
A solid effort with an exceptional performance from Stormare--Brilliant acting, thoughtful screenplay & an effectively absorbing drama!!
January 30, 2014
Peter Stormare is all you need.
½ January 13, 2014
The script is a little undercooked and the acting is serviceable. The real reason to see this is Stromare; he transforms himself, completely realizing his character and gives his best performance since "Fargo." Stromare makes this film with his work. And wow, is it one hell of a performance.

I must say, "Small Town Murder Songs" is one of the best titles I have ever seen.
September 4, 2013
Although the acting was good, the script was way too slow and the plot simplistic to the point of idiocy, thus making the film way too dull. How it got a 79% I'll never know.
May 27, 2013
A very good little movie. Great acting from Peter Stormare and a fine soundtrack too.
½ April 17, 2013
Carefully if over-carefully paced, it's not a bad movie.
½ March 24, 2013
Good acting Good script and well filmed! But serious issues with the musical score.
March 17, 2013
Understated but intense. Amazing cast, location, soundtrack.
hunterjt13
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2013
A small-town Ontario sheriff in a Mennonite community must confront the demons of his past when his ex-lover's boyfriend is the prime suspect of a murder.
Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal sums up this film perfectly: the film "moves so deliberately, with such confident authority, that every small event takes on cumulative significance." Yes, but the slowness, or in Morgenstern's words, "deliberateness," of the film weighs on its subject. I think it's easy to know that the film knows where it's going, but that doesn't mean that we always do. And the title cards between the film's chapters are wholly unnecessary and do little to advance the plot or clarify the themes.
Peter Stormare is very good, creating a strong character out of subtle moments, and the rest of the cast rides on his coattails.
Overall, this is a good film, but it's pace can easily drag on the impatient viewer.
½ January 2, 2013
This movie totally sucks. Complete waste of time. Director drags out scenes to make the meager hour and fifteen time. If you consolidated all the actual plot and dialogue content, it would be 30 minutes of brain damaged characters doing not much of anything.
½ December 12, 2012
"Cosmologically profound" is a bit much, but it truly is an "eerily beautiful", "must-see fresh take on crime and redemption". Punctuated with folk songs and establishing titles, Gass-Donnelly does an amazing job.
November 25, 2012
Watch this move where the event is more the internal struggle and not the outward struggle of solving the murder mystery. Keep your focus on the character, not the events, and you'll like it a lot more.
½ November 4, 2012
A great concept, but the execution somehow ends up unfulfilling.
October 28, 2012
Moody, atmospheric, short film with potential, but the story line is too thin.

It had potential to be really good and most of the movie felt like a unique approach. But, it needed some bulk/substance - I think they should have cut it down to 30 minutes and a movie with 3 separate stories a la Amores Perros.
October 26, 2012
A nice little slap in the face to all these banal tv crime dramas
October 21, 2012
Peter Stormare is so believable for this character, and this film is bleeding with style and uniqueness.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ October 12, 2012
"Small Town Murder Songs" starts with Walter(Peter Stormare), a police chief, being baptized. That cannot prepare him emotionally for the discovery of the dead body of a young woman. At least, Detective Washington(Ari Cohen) arrives from the big city to help out. There is a break in the case when Walter recognizes the voice on the 911 tape as being Rita(Jill Hennessy) which leads to Steve(Stephen Eric McIntyre) who Walter had recently had an altercation with.

The best thing about the otherwise turgid "Small Town Murder Songs" is how much fun it is to watch Peter Stormare inhabit a character very different from the reprobates he usually plays.(Alas, the same cannot be said for Martha Plimpton.) In this story of a man wanting to escape or at least stop talking about his dangerous past, the main character is given a murky backstory while the mystery is simply glossed over. Even with its scant running time, the movie feels stretched to the limit. At least, the songs are cool.
September 7, 2012
Great almost all the way around. The short scriptures that it displayed before each "chapter" were an interesting foreshadowing device. I thought they used it well. It was not by any means a typical Christian movie, which can become annoyingly preachy even if you like the message. The religious theme was actually very subtle. I thought the soundtrack, which I've seen criticized heavily in other reviews, was actually quite good. It was mostly made up of melancholy gospel sounding songs that actually also seemed to have secular lyrics. It was quite strange, but I thought it fit the movie well. The most distracting flaw was, for me, the accents. They just didn't seem quite right, some of them sounded almost Irish. Otherwise, it was a very good, dark crime film.
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