Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival. For more information visit sxsw.com and follow SXSW on Twitter at @sxsw.
Peace Officer (2015)
Dir. Brad Barber, Scott Christopherson
Arriving at a time when police violence is very much in the social conversation, Peace Officer is most certainly a film that very adeptly examines its subject matters. The film chronicles the story of Dub Lawrence, a retired sheriff who established his state’s first SWAT team and would see his son killed by that same establishment some years later. Ultimately, the film presents so many facts and research that it bogs down the film. The film has many moving moments, but it isn’t assembled as deftly as it should have been to achieve maximum effect.
Mania Days (2015)
Dir. Paul Dalio
Featuring two outstanding and career-best performances by Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, Paul Dalio’s Mania Days is a riveting, honest look at two people who share the same mental illness. What makes Mania Days so wonderful is that it doesn’t reduce its subjects to cliches nor does pander to the audience.
Instead, it presents two very real people who struggle to make it through each day whose story will linger long after the credits have ended. Holmes delivers her best work to date and should be considered in the year-end awards season, and Kirby delivers equally riveting work. Paul Dalio’s film is riveting, emotionally searing and ultimately unforgettable. This movie demands to be seen by a wider audience.
Wild Horses (2015)
Dir. Robert Duvall
The new movie made by Robert Duvall feels amateurish. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. I spent all 100 minutes of Wild Horses, written and directed by Duvall, wondering how in the world this unintentionally comedic and dramatically dormant film came from the same Hollywood legend behind the Apostle. Everything in this movie feels like it was shot by someone who’s never made a movie in his life, feeling more like a hastily assembled project for a community college film school course than a professional cast and crew. When its story isn’t dormant, it’s confoundingly shallow. Nothing in this movie feels believable, though it could easily pass either as a “so bad it’s good” movie or a masterclass in everything to do wrong in telling a story on celluloid. Duvall made a huge mistake by giving a major role to his wife, who succeeds with flying colors in depicting a woman still struggling with her native language. By the time the film ends, its harder to tell which is more cringe-worthy: the fact that this movie set feminism back to the dark ages or its incredibly basic, borderline homophobic depiction of a homosexual character.