The Quarry movie review (2020) | Scott Teems

the quarry movie review

In “The Quarry”, a preacher named David Martin (Shea Whigam) comes to the small and economically ruined West Texas town of Bevel to take charge of the area’s single and sparsely attended church. When he arrives at night, his van is broken into, and everything he owns is taken from him. It appears that he will not be long in his job when it becomes apparent that no one in his Spanish-speaking congregation understands English, and when he discovers that with one exemption. Despite his basic and unadorned demeanor, however, his honesty and lack of fluffiness strike a chord with the congregation – “He speaks without prejudice,” according to one person, and their ranks begin to swh. Even Celia (Catalina Sandino Mareno), the woman who has rented out a room in her home to a succession of transitory ministers recently, is taken by him; even if he doesn’t appear different from any other preacher she’s ever seen.

the quarry film

The townspeople are shocked, to say the least. When they find out who she is and recognize her voice as that of David’s mother, it becomes apparent that she was right all along. What the citizens of Amity do not know is that the man they know as David Martin is actually a nameless drifter who was picked up on the side of the road by the real David Martin (Bruno Bichir) while driving down to take up that ministry position. Although real-life Dr. David has his own share of personal issues, among them alcoholism, he is committed to finding some form of inner peace. He perceives in this stranger a similar tortured soul with which he genuinely wants to assist. Unfortunately, the fellow does not react very well to his attentions and ends up murdering the guy during a break at a remote quarry. The bloke decides to take David’s identity and go to Bevel himself after burying the body carelessly. When his van is robbed, police chief Moore (Michael Shannon) grows suspicious; he thinks there is something unusual about this new arrival. David is killed while on the run from police, and his car is stolen. Moore finds out that the culprits were drug dealer Valentin (Bobby Soto) and his young brother Poco (Alvaro Martinez). When the actual David’s body is discovered, he has enough circumstantial evidence to implicate them as well, although they have a good suspicion as to who the murderer might be.

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the quarry movie

Based on a 1995 novel by Damon Galgut, which centered on racial conflicts in post-apartheid South Africa and dealt in part with the end of apartheid, “The Quarry” appears to have all the elements of a dark and brooding western-tinged noir drama like “No Country for Old Men.” The issue is that while director/co-writer Scott Teems has all of the ingredients, he doesn’t seem to know how to put them together in an interesting way. He’s a guy who takes his time and goes at his own pace. This works for a while, but it soon becomes slow and methodical before evaporating entirely at the precise moment when things should start heating up dramatically. As for the script, it too frequently resembles a string of contrivances rather than anything else we never believe that the drifter would choose to take on the life of the man he killed, and what occurrences inadvertently connect the two brothers to the murder are downright dubious. On top of that, the idea that the drifter can become a preacher despite having no understanding of the Bible (and a congregation that doesn’t understand what he’s saying to them) sounds amusing from a satiric standpoint, but it ultimately reads as unemotionally as everything else. Both Whigham and Moreno are excellent actors, but they are stymied by a character that is frustratingly opaque while never being compelling. She has nothing to do other than lie around and think about her own regrets in life as she smokes cigarettes, whereas he is hampered by a character that is impenetrably dense.

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What ultimately makes “The Quarry” so infuriating is that there are several intriguing aspects to it that might have been built into a more engaging movie. The plot’s fundamental idea isn’t without interest, and it could have served as the foundation for an interesting and compelling noir narrative. Similarly, the film’s conclusion is quite strong if a little implausible from a logistics standpoint, despite being too little and too late to make any real difference. It also features an excellent cast, including the highly-rated Michael Shannon as the police chief. Shannon is one of those live-wire actors who cannot help but raise the bar on any film he appears in, and that is certainly the case here. He is able to create a character who feels genuine, with a life outside of the plot’s constraints, in an environment where every other element has been flattened and affectless. “The Quarry” may be a slow burn from a dramatic standpoint, but it only flickers to life when Shannon is around.

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Film Credits

the quarry movie 2020

Directed by: Scott Teems

Based on: The Quarry
by Damon Galgut

Starring: Shea Whigham, Michael Shannon, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bobby Soto, Bruno Bichir, Alvaro Martinez

Release date: April 17, 2020

Running time: 98 minutes

Country: United States

Movie Rating: 2.7/5

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