Runoff

Rated R 90 minutes 2014

Nothing but misfortune comes to Betty (Joanne Kelly) and Frank (Neal Huff): their farm and agricultural supply business is failing, he's diagnosed with cancer, and their misfit teenage son (Alex Shaffer) likes to smoke pot and sketch roadkill. When the final foreclosure notice on their home arrives, Betty bites down hard and accepts a bribe from one of their clients (Tom Bower) to illegally dump numerous drums of a toxic chemical into the neighboring river. Louisville writer-director Kimberly Levin, a biochemist making her feature debut, shows remarkable skill in the family scenes, laying out complex relationships among wife, husband, and son. The movie has drawn apt comparisons to Courtney Hunt's Frozen River (2008) and Debra Granik's Winter’s Bone (2010) for its strong-willed heroine and credible handling of contemporary rural life. Less impressive is the creaky suspense machinery, which recycles a hoary melodramatic premise and builds to a heavy-handed climax, but this is still promising work that's worth checking out.

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