Netflix Original Small Crimes is a dark and entertaining movie with a screenplay adapted by Evan Katz and Macon Blair from the book written by Dave Zeltserman. Katz also directed Cheap Thrills. His co-writer Blair might sound familiar because Geeky Talk did a review for his movie, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore. After having enjoyed Small Crimes and Blair’s last film, I am purposefully going to search out more movies by both Katz and Blair. Small Crimes is not a movie for the lighthearted so you might want to stay away if a murky bleak tale puts you into a deep depression. Small Crime’s characters are believable and entertaining to watch on screen even if they are lacking some development. The dark story was able to hold my attention while I tried to figure out what was going on in the plot and piece together why and how Joe Denton’s life could go so horribly wrong.
Quick points of review:
- The cast does an excellent job with their roles.
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau fits easily into the main character’s role.
- Secondary characters are not fully fleshed out.
- The plot leaves you curious to find out more but much of the past is left fuzzy.
- Small Crimes is not a happy world and the theme of past mistakes and second chances is explored in the movie.
*Spoiler Alert! If you are avoiding spoilers, do not read further. You’ve been warned.*
Joe Denton (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a cop released from prison six years after attempted murder of attorney Phil Coakley (Michael Kinney). Joe’s father (Robert Forster) tries to speak with to his son about his past while holding a book about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He tries to talk to Joe about problems with their relationship and his past mistakes as a parent. Joe’s mother (Jacki Weaver) asks Joe about getting a job to avoid slipping into his past behaviors.
Joe visits the local bar after being six years sober. An old friend, Scotty (Macon Blair) and brother of Joe’s slain partner greets him. A young woman hits on Joe and asks him for a ride home. She leads him to the middle of nowhere and he wards off her advances. Then, to Joe’s surprise, the woman reveals she is Phil Coakley’s daughter, Cara (Daniela Sandiford), and injures her head on the dashboard. After Cara screams, several men drag Joe out of the truck and attack him.
Joe is questioned at the police station by Lt. Dan Pleasant (Gary Cole) and Phil Coakley. Coakley admits Joe’s story matches the evidence and asks if Joe wants to press charges against Cara. Joe says he just wants to leave it in the past. Afterward, the audience discovers Lt. Pleasant is a corrupt cop and used to work with Joe as he propositions Joe to kill their boss Manny Vassey (Shawn Lawrence) in exchange for changing the settlement with Joe’s ex-wife to see his daughters again. Lt. Pleasant is concerned Manny will confess their past crimes while he is on his death bed.
Joe visits Manny’s house and attempts to kill Many by suffocating him when he nods off to sleep. Manny’s hospice nurse, Charlotte Boyd (Molly Parker), walks in before Joe can kill him. As Joe leaves the huge house, Manny’s son, Junior (Pat Healey), starts screaming and threatening Joe. Junior knocks Joe down and threatens to kill him if he ever shows up at his father’s house again.
Joe stops at a place for coffee. While ordering coffee he runs into Charlotte again. He wants to use Charlotte to finish the job with Manny. While sitting down with Charlotte he says he likes her. The two begin dating. After Joe finds out Charlotte knows who he is and about his past, Charlotte reveals she knows he just needs a second chance. Joe receives a call from Lt. Pleasant and he tells him he is not going to be able to use Charlotte as a way to kill Manny. Lt. Pleasant suggests Joe kill Phil Coakley instead. Joe tries to kill Coakley at his house but backs down after noticing the scars he left on the man from his past attempted murder. Later Joe bribes a prostitute to sleep with Coakley and tries to record the attorney with her.
Joe gets into an argument with his parents after finding out they’ve stolen his money and have been keeping his daughters’ whereabouts a secret from him. Gun shots go off through the house and his mother is shot through the neck. Joe and his father rush her to the hospital. Joe visits Charlotte and explains everything that’s going on with Manny and his part in the crimes. The next morning Charlotte is gone. She murders Manny in his sleep and is caught by Junior.
Joe is abducted by Junior and his men when he wakes up. Junior cuts Joe in the car and lets him know Charlotte sounded just like him after he killed her. While Junior is getting ready to shoot Joe, lots of unexpected gunfire goes off. Joe finds out the other gunman is Scotty. Joe and Scotty shoot the men.
Joe admits to Scotty he killed his brother. Scotty confesses he is the one who shot into Joe’s home and injured his mother. Scotty dies and Lt. Pleasant tells Joe Coakley died in a car accident. Joe goes to his parents’ home and finds his money in the trash. Joe’s father refuses to allow Joe to leave. Joe mentions he is going to give his money to his daughters. Joe’s father stands in his way. Joe pushes his father out of the way and his father stabs him in the gut. Before Joe dies he wipes the fingerprints off the knife handle.
Geeky Talk’s Reaction to the Movie
Small Crimes is filled with an excellent cast. The actors do a terrific job with their roles and the characters are believable and fit perfectly into the gloomy story about corruption and crime. Molly Parker portrays the hospice nurse with a hint of mystery into her past and the unexplained interest in Joe. Her character’s story is never fully fleshed out like many of the secondary characters, but she still manages to play her role well. Pat Healey is exactly what I would expect from a maniacal son of a crime boss. Macon Blair’s seemingly clueless Scotty is portrayed well and gave me a bit of a giggle when he admits to Joe he shot into his house.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau does a really good job playing the corrupt cop just trying to make up for his past mistakes. It seems to come to him naturally and I really enjoyed watching his performance. Joe isn’t magically a good guy when he is released from prison but you can tell from Coster-Waldau’s performance he wants to be better. When Joe is hesitant about his first drink, when he meets Charlotte and decides not to use her, and even at the end when he wipes the blade that kills him clean of his father’s fingerprints. The portrayal of a corrupt man who desperately wants to be better and see his daughters again is skillfully played. It’s no wonder Coster-Waldau makes an excellent Jaime Lannister.
The plot can come off as fuzzy at times as you try to piece together the past of who did what and what roles all the character’s played to create the whole story to being with, but this added to the mystery and the entertainment for the plot at the same time. It’s a crime drama about corrupt cops. The story reminds me of a gangster movie and the ending is ironic and tragic.
Small Crimes is not a happy tale. It’s black and bleak. Joe can never really seem to outrun the past and forgiveness does not seem to be in the cards even if he wants to do better. I enjoy happy movies with positive messages but I can definitely appreciate a film that isn’t afraid to take a closer look when past mistakes and second chances don’t always bring forth easy fairy tale endings.
Small Crimes is an excellent watch if you can appreciate the darker themes and tragic ending. The cast is excellent and I really enjoyed the movie. I am not necessarily a Jaime Lannister fan (sorry Jaime my heart belongs to the Starks), but Small Crimes has solidified my appreciation for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s acting ability for these type of roles. Small Crimes has piqued my interest in the movies of Evan Katz and Macon Blair. I have some movie watching to do! If you haven’t seen Small Crimes, you do too! So go watch it right now on Netflix.
Have you seen Small Crimes on Netflix yet? What do you think of the movie? What did you think of our review? Put your Geeky Talk in the comments below and don’t forget to check out our review of Macon Blair’s movie, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore.
Happy geeky movie watching!