By David Ehrlich
A pulpy slice of pie from deep in the heart of American nowhere, Evan Katz’s “Small Crimes” is far too convoluted for such an admittedly modest thriller, but the film ties together in such a perfect bow that it’s tempting to forgive all of the knots it took to get there.
At heart, this is a simple story of second chances. Crooked cop Joe Denton (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, striking the perfect balance between the disgraced prince he plays on “Game of Thrones” and Sawyer from “Lost”) has finally been granted parole after spending a few years in the pen for the attempted murder of a District Attorney, and he’s ready to turn his life around. Kind of. Maybe.
Joe is a raggedy shit-kicker, like a junkie who needs to shoot himself in the foot every few hours — you know the type. He spends the film’s opening shot speaking to a man of the cloth and confessing all manner of sins (“I made terrible choices, I drove my family away, I hurt people…”), but it’s all a two-bit act, and the scene ends with a note of the withering gallows humor that screenwriter Macon Blair (“I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.”) is so good at sprinkling atop the cold-blooded crime stories that have always been his bread and butter.
The film may be based on David Zeltserman’s 2008 novel of the same name, but it feels like it married into the same family of cinematic blood feuds that Blair and Jeremy Saulnier hatched with “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room.”