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With: Shea Whigham, Michael Shannon, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bobby Soto, Alvaro Martinez, Jimmy Gonzales, Bruno Bichir
Written by: Scott Teems, Andrew Brotzman, based on a novel by Damon Galgut
Directed by: Scott Teems
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and language
Running Time: 98
Date: 04/17/2020

The Quarry (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Preach Bums

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A dusty, rural crime story, this slow-paced drama doesn't dig very deep, but the sun-baked, wind-blown setting, and the nuanced performances by its two gifted lead actors, make it well worth a look.

In The Quarry (great title), a preacher (Bruno Bichir) drives through Texas and comes upon a man (Shea Whigham), unconscious, by the side of the road. At a quarry, the priest provokes him, and the man punches the preacher, killing him. The man buries the body and assumes the preacher's identity. Now "David Martin," he drives on to a small town, where Celia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) waits for him with a room.

He immediately falls asleep, and during the night the van is robbed. Police chief Moore (Michael Shannon) takes the report, but seems suspicious. David begins giving sermons, and, unexpectedly, he's a success and more people begin attending. But meanwhile, the thieves have traced David's whereabouts back to the quarry.

Based on a novel by South African writer Damon Galgut (which was already made into a movie there in 1998), The Quarry has a few problems of translation, a few small details that don't quite fit the Texas backdrop. And it also provides very little to do for Moreno (who was unforgettable in Maria Full of Grace).

In broad strokes, The Quarry takes on prejudice and anti-immigrant attitudes, but doesn't go very far, especially given that one of its major immigrant characters is actually a drug dealer, and that Whigham's white character can't speak Spanish. But the movie sparks to life when Whigham and Shannon play cat-and-mouse with one another, each trying to best the other. (Moreover, Whigham's scenes in the church as he reads words of forgiveness are quite moving.)

They are both character actors of the highest caliber — they've worked together in things like Boardwalk Empire and Take Shelter — and their work here is more than enough to make the movie worth a look.

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