The Hollow

In Culter County, Mississippi, there's a little out of the way spot the locals call The Hollow. It used to be just one of those spots where teenagers would park, but these days there are more sinister goings-on there. When a 20-something couple, just passing through town, ask two deputies for a cheap place to crash for a while, Deputy Ray Everett (Miles Doleac) decides to send them to The Hollow, just because he's a jerk like that.

Except this little prank sets off quite the chain of problems. The next morning the young couple is dead, brutally murdered along with a local girl named Kami King (Portia Walls). Worse, the other victims turn out to be the daughter of an Illinois Congressman and her boyfriend, who were eloping. Now Deputy Ray, his kind-hearted partner Lucas (Joseph VanZandt), and Sheriff Beau McKinney (William Sadler, Iron Man 3) have the FBI descending on them along with the media, and there's no telling which is worse.

The culture clash is immediate. James Callis (Battlestar Galactica) is lead FBI agent
Vaughn Killinger, and he would rather be anywhere than Mississippi. His partner Sarah Desoto (Christiane Seidel) also isn't thrilled, but realizes that cases like these can make or break careers, and she's determined to keep Vaughn on track. This isn't easy, since Vaughn is both an alcoholic and a mean drunk and also likes feeling sorry for himself. She insists he's also a good agent, but I don't know how she puts up with him.

And good or not, these agents are decidedly out of their element. Ray is at least as crooked as anyone he's ever arrested -- and he was also a little too close to Kami King -- but he's far from the worst this town has to offer. There's the rich and powerful Big John Dawson (William Forsythe, The Mentalist), for instance, who seems more like Vaughn than Vaughn would care to admit. Even the high school principal (David Warshofsky of the Taken franchise) has his dirty little secrets.

By the time they sort through the clues and find their prime suspect, you've almost forgotten why everyone's there. The movie is as much about the power plays among the characters as it is about the murders. Big John wants to keep his grip on the town and protect his football star grandson, another suspect. Ray wants to do right for his kids, about his only good quality. And Vaughn wants Sarah, though she's less sure that she wants him.

But the movie's real star is its setting. Mississippi has made the locals what they are, and makes the FBI agents think twice about themselves. I can see why; having grown up in the upper midwestern U.S., anything that far south seems like another planet, so it's bound to have strange effects. The atmosphere grabs you from the start and the performances are all excellent. It suffers a little from not quite knowing if it's a crime drama or just a drama, but it's still a solid four out of five and well worth watching. William Forsythe chewing the scenery alone is worth the price of admission.

Image: 
Vaughn broods in front of the equally brooding Mississippi landscape.

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