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MESKADA
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Reviewed by: Ammon Gilbert

Directed by: Josh Sternfeld

Starring:
Nick Stahl
Kellan Lutz
Rachel Nichols
Norman Reedus
Jonathan Tucker

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A kid is murdered during a home invasion by a couple of blue-collared types (Kellan Lutz and Jonathan Tucker) traveling on the road in search of work but coming up empty handed. The local police detective on the case (Nick Stahl) follows the clues back to his hometown where tensions rise at the prospect of one of their own being guilty of such a heinous act.
Is it good movie?
MESKADA is a mystery along the lines of LAW & ORDER, AMC’s THE KILLING, and even a little bit of WINTER’S BONE thrown in for good measure. Except for one tiny detail that sets it apart from the rest: you know exactly who the killers are the second the movie starts. And since you know who the killers are before the opening credits roll, there’s little-to-no mystery in the police investigation that follows. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I suppose that all depends on what you’re looking for in a murder mystery. If you like the chase, watching the thought-process of the police as they put the pieces together with the payoff of finally finding the bad guy, then sure… it works. But if you like all that and the mystery in figuring out who done it along with the detectives then it doesn’t work at all and becomes an almost pointless charade of “who gives a f*ck” since you already know you did it and you already know that, by the end of the movie, they’re going to get caught.

Oddly enough, even though there’s a lot going against this flick from the get-go, it’s surprising how engrossing it eventually becomes, following the case through the eyes of Nick Stahl as he’s forced to go back to his “white trash” hometown that’s riddled with out-of-work families who view the outside world as being out to get them. Sure, you know who did it, but watching Stahl’s journey into figuring it out for himself is interesting and keeps the film moving along at a steady pace. The investigation sucks you in so much that it makes all the little inconsistencies sprinkled throughout not stand out until later. But I suppose the fact that it makes you sit and think about it afterwards is saying something.

For starters, during the movie I accepted the inclusion of Rachel Nichols as Stahl’s new partner, but upon reflection I can’t understand why the hell her character even needed to exist in the first place. She offered nothing to film, to the case, to the investigation, and she really didn’t do a whole lot... she's just kind of there. Stahl and Nichols have utterly no chemistry between the two of them. Nothing against Nichols as an actress, though, as she did a fine job… it’s more of a fault of the script, which threw her into this movie without anything to do.

And that’s the thing with MESKADA that may be overlooked: everyone does a decent job in the acting department which is saying a lot for a low-budget straight-to-DVD thriller like this. Stahl is surprisingly believable as the lead detective, Jonathan Tucker plays the sympathetic criminal in question with complete humility, and even Kellan Lutz shows up and manages to not suck. I also really dug Norman Reedus in the role as the out-of-work and bitter townie. In fact, if we weren’t so blatantly shown who the real murders were from the get-go, I might have thought it was him the whole time—he plays it on that level of sleeziness.

So while the acting was decent, the story and the overall premise of knowing who the killers are from the get-go made MESKADA go from a movie that could have been awesome to a movie that was just OK.

Video / Audio
Video: The film is presented in anarmorphic widescreen(1.78:1) and appears (for the most part) to be shot on film, though there are a few instances where the clarity of the picture and the fluidity of the movement looks and feels like something shot on videotape. But picture-quality wise, it’s all there.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is represented here just like any other Anchor Bay release and it’s decent. I can hear the people on screen and the musical score just fine—honestly, I didn’t really notice…meaning it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, it simply just was.

The Extras
Zero, nothing, nada, zilch.
Last Call
Fans of Nick Stahl and shows like THE KILLING may get their rocks off with MESKADA but the rest of us will wonder where the mystery is at since we know who killed the boy from the instance the movie starts. The cast is adequate, the tone is full of dread, but the writing just isn’t there enough to make this a great movie… it was rather just OK.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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