Robin Wright (Wonder Wonder 1984), Billy Bob Thornton (The Gray Man), and Jackie Earle Harley (Alita: Battle Angel) lead a slice of small-town Americana that delves into the lives of a wealthy family.
As Jacob McNeeley (Hopper Penn) is torn between love and family loyalty, this low-key drama is sparse on dialogue, yet rich on atmospherics, as the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina cast an imposing shadow.
In this close-knit community chamber piece, Charlie (Thornton) is the antagonistic father figure, making quite the impression in those first minutes. His son Jacob is more reserved, less confrontational, and softer around the edges after years of an overbearing man.
Jacob is locked up in their family business and can't see any way out. Only his friendship with Maggie, the daughter of the town councilor, appears to be a solution. His mother (Wright) and father are separated, meaning he spends time between them, attempting to reconcile them.
Wright is unquestionably modest in her participation in court, avoiding Thornton in his firebrand appearance. Despite her years of self-inflicted drug abuse, she holds her own against her onscreen husband in their brief moments. Penn, on the other hand, displays a wounded fragility in many ways, similar to his father Sean.
As Jacob unravels in the shadow of those towering rock formations, a slow-burn momentum begins to take hold, bringing back fond memories of Jennifer Lawrence's breakout film Winter's Bone. With old friendships between town sheriff Dwight ( Haley) and Charlie being tested, events come to a halt in no time.
Devil's Peak is a contemporary noir film that is populated with an intriguing mix of nasty characters. Revenge, retribution, and brutal retribution are just a few of its characteristics.
McNeeley senior engages in a power play with Jacob that cannot only end one way. As the son seeks to rescue his girlfriend from imminent danger, filmmaker Ben Young continues to build onscreen tensions. Charlie would rather die than give up what is hiss, but nonetheless admires Jacob for finally forming a backbone.
The McNeeley legacy becomes a backwoods bloodbath when corrupt law enforcement merges with the single-minded arrogance of a man who considers himself untouchable, resulting in an enigmatic conclusion worth the wait. As two generations have their own Mexican conflict, an undercurrent of tragedy begins to infiltrate every frame of this small-town drama.
What starts out as a character piece anchored in part by Thornton and Penn, gradually evolves into something different. This collection by David Joy might have served as the model, but Through this ensemble cast, Where Light Tends to Go hits home.
Devil's Peak is a straightforward tale of enticing family loyalty and the suffocating responsibility of maintaining that legacy, but it manages to make these themes feel fresh. Penn, for example, excels in his position among a cast of supporting actors, who includes at least one Oscar winner.
As Thornton delivers yet another nuanced performance, Devil's Peak might become Penn's, a man who has carried a special legacy through his father; a man who has built his reputation on the back of numerous on-screen performances, each with their own tinge.
Penn should step out of that imposing shadow, confront cinema in his own terms, and carve a furrow as accomplished.