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USA 2007
Directed by
Jeff Nichols
87 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Shotgun Stories

Debut writer-director Jeff Nichols impressively captures the ethos of backwater mid-west America (I assume Arkansas, Nichols’ home state) in this gripping story of a feud between two sets of half-brothers.
The main focus of the film are the three Hayes brothers, Son, Boy and Kid (Michael Shannon, Douglas Ligon and Barlow Jacobs respectively), abandoned by their violent father and brought up by their mother in the spirit of an eye-for-an-eye, to hate their half-brothers, the issue of their father's second, born-again-Christian marriage. When their father dies suddenly, Son, the oldest attends the service and reviles the deceased. This instigates an escalating cycle of violence that ends in tragedy. Nichols'  interest is not in the action however but rather the attitudes that inspire it. Shotgun Stories is above all a portrait of a culture and a way of life (it comes as no surprise that David Gordon Green, whose on films explore this "backwoods" world so well was a producer). 

Michael Shannon is excellent in the main role (Nichols apparently wrote the script with Shannon in mind) as the elder brother who carries (literally) the scars of their abusive father’s ill-treatment on his back but both Ligon and Barlow are strong in their support roles. Nichols’ script is both economical and rich with telling detail, as for example in the brief exchange between Annie and Cheryl in the grocery store, only the character of Shampoo (G Alan Wilkins) comes across as a too-convenient plot device.

Evidently Nicols knows and loves the Arkansas landscape which is nicely photographed by Adam Stone and the laconic people who inhabit it and with Shotgun Stories he successfully brings them both to the screen.

DVD Extras: Original Theatrical trailer

Available from: Madman




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