Having one of your lead characters nonchalantly reference Jim Thompson, surely the master of twisted, sweaty Southern noir fiction, means you’re already setting yourself up for a potential fall awfully quickly. This, unfortunately, is precisely what sibling directing duo Simon and Zeke Hawkins do with We Gotta Get Out of This Place (2013), a largely groanworthy independent offering which is severely lacking in the pulpy charms it so desperately tries to emulate. The brothers have certainly done their homework, knuckling down to watch the early works of John Dahl and the Coen brothers, but the resulting film looks more like an overly self-conscious and lifeless facsimile rather than a work of breezy homage.
Opening with a neatly orchestrated mini-heist – a rare moment of fun mayhem in an otherwise testing piece – we follow college-bound friends Bobby (Jeremy Allen White) and Sue (Mackenzie Davis) who are itching to get out of their stifling small town. Sue’s boyfriend and best friend to Bobby, B.J. (Logan Huffman), also happens to be the perpetrator of the robbery, and he begins lavishing the stolen cash on his unwitting pair of accomplices. However, it isn’t long before the cash-haemorrhaging threesome is pulled up by the local muscle who have been tasked with looking after the stolen moolah. It belongs to a mob boss and the kids are given a couple of days to replace what has been taken, although relationship issues between them threaten to scupper their retrieval plans before they even get underway.
The warm critical reception for both Blue Ruin and Cold in July has surely contributed to We Gotta Get Out of This Place receiving a theatrical release here in the UK. Unfortunately, quality-wise the film bears scant resemblance to either. The ensuing series of betrayals committed can be spotted a mile off, while it’s hard to get behind such one-note, spineless characters who never once appear to question the severity of the danger they’ve put themselves in, nor the potential consequences. Why any woman would be attracted to the transparently petulant, dishonest and bullying B.J. is anyone’s guess, and the horribly contrived reveal which sends the trio’s relationship into a tailspin (B.J. hears of Bobby and Sue’s extra curricular activity via a hidden baby talker) wouldn’t look out of place in a tawdry soap. The retro opening credits are a nice hark-back to low-budget genre cinema, but what follows is so predictable and artificial that you’ll be left wishing the three protagonists were put out of their misery long before the end credits roll.