Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Directed by: Charles Burmeister
Starring: Scott Eastwood, Angela Sarafyan, Nick Chinlund
Scott Eastwood stares, and Nick Chinlund spouts bizarre dialogue. Those are the key takeaways from Mercury Plains, a slow burn thriller that lacks a little burn and a lot of thrills. Set south of the site soon to house Trump’s monster wall, Charles Burmeister’s sophomore film is let down by laziness in a number of areas.
Burmeister’s screenplay is the main culprit. Eastwood plays Mitch, a possibly angry (though he’s too laconic to tell for sure) young man from a no-hope Texan town. He lives with his sister, mother, and her partner, and he hates it. When a friend suggests heading down to Mexico to find some women, he doesn’t take much convincing. After the flaky friend bails and he gets a barroom beating for refusing to pick up the tab, he finds himself recruited into a paramilitary army bordering on a cult. Their mission: to fight back against local drug cartels. Or it might be a front used by an eccentric US army vet going by the name of the The Captain to get rich.
The Captain’s crew includes a couple of child soldiers and some deranged young men looking for action. They spend their days digging ditches and training, until they’re unleashed on the local community with predictably dire results. What’s going on takes a backseat to watching Eastwood look tough as he proves himself to everyone while fighting against some of the more extreme orders coming down from The Captain.Eastwood, a chip off the old block perhaps, aims for the strong silent thing. Mostly his portrayal of Mitch involves a lot of staring. He’s also implausibly good at just about everything he tries, and is supposed to be the emotional heart of the group, summed up cheaply when the others get him to read a family letter repeatedly. Eastwood does an ok job, but he seems lost between lonely machismo and gentler team bonding.
Where he spends most of it keeping schtum, The Captain won’t shut up. Strolling around with shaved head and a young girlfriend (Angela Sarafyan) who has little purpose other than a quickly ignored romance with Mitch, he blurts out countless lines that must be a joke. He’s the kind of guy who lectures about being high on the salt of life, the kind of guy who informs you boldness is best sampled on the first gulp. In short, he’s the kind of guy who only exists in the world of trite dialogue and poor character development. So ridiculous are the things coming from his mouth, he’s not even scary.
As Mitch’s time with this thinly sketched group of lunatics drags on, it becomes clear they aren’t out to clean up town. Eventually he goes his own way, and is left running around the desert with The Captain in tow. At least the sandy, cactus wasteland looks pretty, but even here Burmeister takes the easy route. Quick cutaways to the sweeping grandeur of empty Mexico are thrust in all over the shop. They aren’t bad, but there’s nothing special about any of the compositions, and they seem to be used whenever the narrative starts to lose its way.
There are a few decent actions scenes, and the odd moment of genuine tension, but most of the time Mercury Plains is mediocre, and some of the time even worse. By no means a travesty, it’s also not really worth the effort.