Manic mugging from Nicolas Cage only adds to the woes of an ugly thriller
The generic moniker of Steven C Miller's relentlessly ugly thriller has been altered from the US release title Arsenal, presumably to dissuade British punters hoping to see a football-related drama. Gruesomely dank Mississippi locations, extreme violence and a predictably unhinged performance from Nicolas Cage are the nominal selling points here, but there's precious little else kicking off in this hackneyed tale of loyalty between brothers.
After a sentimental opening showing how the Lindel brothers looked out for each other as kids, Miller skips forward a couple of decades to show the tensions between troubled ex-marine Mikey (Johnathon Schaech) and his more entrepreneurial sibling JP (Entourage star Adrian Grenier). On his uppers, Mikey borrows money from JP to covertly buy and sell some cocaine, but falls foul of sadistic crime boss Eddie King (Cage), who wants to use Mikey as a bargaining tool to extort money from JP via a fake kidnapping plot.
First-time screenwriter Jason Mosberg's script occasionally threatens to spring some Coen-esque twists, adding intrigue by withholding information about whether Mikey is going along with Eddie's plan or not. And there's a half-developed motif contrasting the drug-fuelled fervour of King's ruthless torturing of his enemies and the religious / protest songs featured on the soundtrack, a detail that might have borne fruit in a more thoughtful film.
But Miller's aspirations slip away as Cage monologues manically under a false nose, moustache and boot-polish black wig, while John Cusack turns up in an anonymous supporting role and Grenier fails to convince as a tough guy. 2016's excellent Hell or High Water proved that there's still life in the brothers-in-crime sub-genre, but Southern Fury feels clumsy by comparison – it's smattered with gore and overacting, and ultimately good for nothing.
Limited release from Fri 24 Feb.