Two sets of half brothers become charged with anger after the death of their father, a man who treated one half of the family with violence and resentment, and the other half with respect and loyalty. The poorly treated half of the Hayes family said a few disrespectful words at their father’s funeral. This commenced a feud between the two families, who then resort to the right to bear arms in order to solve these disputes.
Shotgun Stories forges a righteous path for revenge stories with an important message, which ranks it as last year’s most powerful film. First-time writer/director Jeff Nichols might spark a new wave of American filmmakers with his style and the obvious conviction of his work. It’s tightly edited and marvelously triumphant in its depiction of right and wrong. The casting was done wisely. Although actor Michael Shannon’s character seems one-dimensional until rage hits him, most of the performances are very good at capturing the essence of these individuals. Every performance is dead on.
The film has a very slow pace that centers on developing these characters. The problem is we have characters here that have bullet wounds and are patched up with bandages and we have no insight into where or how these wounds occurred. For example, Son Hayes (Micheal Shannon) has bullet wounds in his back from protecting his brothers. But where, when, and why did this happen? Same goes with Shampoo (G. Alan Wilkins). He has bandages all over himself and we have no recollection as to how this happened. Small things like that deserve to be answered.
It picks up the pace about halfway through and becomes exactly the film I was expecting — a tense, harrowing decent into revenge-fueled hatred. Powerful, important, and very American, the intensity this story has makes it a must-see. The score is ideal for a movie like this, giving off an appropriate vibe. Jeff Nichols has a way of putting a spellbinding trance on us and guides us to the meaningful ending. The PG-13 rating is very appropriate for the violence occurring in America. Everyone should see this film before reaching out for a loaded weapon and maybe they will think about the consequences of revenge and the long-lasting effects it has on people.
Shotgun Stories is the most American film of the year and possibly one that will be remembered for years to come. Jeff Nichols knows what he is doing, and proves it by demonstrating a new kind of justice, one that forgives and forgets instead of descending into brutality. It’s a wake-up call to America. Special features include an audio commentary with director Jeff Nichols, an isolated score track composed and performed by the band Lucero, a photo gallery, and a Shotgun Stories trailer. 4/5 stars