"Unresolved, Strange, Creepy Mystery Thriller"
What You Need To Know:
Director Ian Olds has fashioned a moody sense of mystery for BURN COUNTRY. It works well throughout most of the movie. Dominic Rains gives a charismatic, sympathetic performance as the protagonist. The other actors are all creepy enough to be highly effective. However, the movie never resolves any of its mysteries, and its ending is anti-climactic. Worse, BURN COUNTRY contains many strong obscenities and a fair amount of strong profanities. It also has some fighting, a couple bloody corpses and a few sexual references. Ultimately, BURN COUNTRY isn’t worth watching because of its unresolved, disappointing ending.
(RoRo, B, Pa, FR, LLL, VV, S, A, DD, MM) Strong Romantic worldview with some light moral elements of a sympathetic protagonist emigrating from war-torn Afghanistan trying to find out the truth about the mysterious, often creepy inhabitants of a small California town who seem to have plenty of things to hide but mysteries are never answered or solved, plus some pagan behavior includes a mysterious New Age guru to whom people seem to owe money; at least 68 obscenities (including many “f” words) and 12 mostly strong profanities, plus teenager gives protagonist the finger; strong and light violence includes protagonist is chased twice into the woods in fear of his life, protagonist gets punched a couple times at the end of one chase before fighting back and knocking out his assailant with a rock three times to the head, protagonist punches a man who threatens him several times in shadow but only clear result is what appears to be a broken nose from the man he punched, a couple bloody corpses are shown, teenager sets a mailbox and its post on fire to harass protagonist, missing man reappears looking drugged and with a bloody face, and brief shots of guns going off in the distance represent war moments in Afghanistan; light sexual content includes woman discusses having an open sexual relationship with a strange guru-like man who seems to hold a lot of sway over townspeople, a few other sexual references, and protagonist sees woman wearing only her bra on top as her “boyfriend” kisses her belly and she smiles wickedly for a moment at him before ignoring him and the scene cuts away when protagonist storms out; no nudity but woman is seen in a bra in one scene; alcohol use; smoking and some people seem to be drug-addled; and, criminal behavior and potential criminal behavior investigated, vandalism, protagonist sometimes faces mysterious hostility, and people act strangely/abnormally, including it’s implied people may get beaten up for not paying some mysterious debts.
BURN COUNTRY is the story of a reporter from Afghanistan who flees to a small town in California to live with a friend’s mother, the town sheriff, only to find that the town is filled with strange, mysterious and potentially dangerous people. BURN COUNTRY never resolves the mystery or dramatic tension in the script and has a strong Romantic worldview with lots of foul language and some implied sexual immorality.
A war reporter from Afghanistan named Osman (Dominic Rains) moves to a small California town to get away from the war-torn stress of his homeland. He’s friends with the son of the town’s female sheriff, Gloria (Melissa Leo), so she takes Osman in. When he needs a new job, however, he’s only offered $50 per week to write the police blotter for the local paper, detailing local criminal incidents.
Osman starts to notice there are a lot of creepy people in the area. Seemingly, everywhere he goes he encounters weird behavior. A teenager sets the mailbox and post in front of his place on fire. People chase him into the woods on foot. And, he stumbles across a home where a woman’s screams are heard, whereupon a crazy old lady comes out and screams at him about why he’s lurking on her property.
Gloria keeps telling Osman to stay out of the town’s troubles. Her knowing looks to the townspeople make it seem like she knows something big and creepy is afoot. Meanwhile, a chatty but odd guy named Lindsay (James Franco) befriends Osman. Lindsay drives him around the town’s backroads, but nothing is ever clear about what’s really hapening.
Things seem to come to a head when Lindsay disappears. Also, Osman encounters comes across a guru-like man named Carl (Tim Kniffin) and his girlfriend. Everyone in town seems to owe money to Carl, who also hosts strange parties.
Ultimately, however, despite a lot of effective atmosphere and the movie’s impressive sense of tension, Osman winds up never learning anything more about the town and its people than when he started. This is frustrating for both himself and the viewer.
Director Ian Olds has fashioned a moody sense of mystery for BURN COUNTRY, and it works well throughout most of this unique thriller. The actors surrounding Osman are all creepy enough to be highly effective, while Dominic Rains gives a charismatic, sympathetic performance as the protagonist, Osman. He’s an interesting presence who deserves better scripts in the future.
However, the ending never resolves any of the mysteries about the town or its people. So, ultimately, BURN COUNTRY never delivers a true climactic resolution. This is bad storytelling, especially in a mystery thriller.
In addition to this problem, BURN COUNTRY has a lot of gratuitous foul language, including many “f” words and many strong profanities. It also has some rough hand to hand fighting, a couple of bloody corpses, implied drug use, and some sexual tension between the protagonist and the apparent villain, the guru’s, girlfriend. The strong foul language is the most overt moral, spiritual problem in BURN COUNTRY. BURN COUNTRY warrants extreme caution even for adults and is inappropriate for anyone younger. Happily, though, it’s not worth watching anyway because it never resolves satisfactorily the dramatic tension and conflict set up by the screenwriters and the director.