Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sidewalk ’17: The Weight

Missouri is the home of barbecue spare ribs and Provel cheese, so maybe it’s not surprising the villain of this Midwest border state noir is a weight loss counselor. She sells a healthy lifestyle and not so healthy drugs. Unfortunately, Thad Sitter got himself mixed up in her illicit business. When he suddenly disappears under mysterious circumstances, his ex-wife will defy the conspicuously unhelpful sheriff to find him in Thomas Rennier’s The Weight, which screens during the 2017 Sidewalk Film Festival.

Although Thad and Julie Sitter divorced, they still care deeply for each other. It was one of those complicated situations. Things weren’t so complicated between her and Sheriff Crane. She just dumped him—end of story. Of course, that means he has all kinds of bad attitude when she reports him missing. Sitter had been working for Gayle Benson’s weight loss clinic, where he served as the primary contact with her drug supplier. Benson sells a supposedly natural weight loss supplement to her clients that is apparently some kind of amphetamine compound. Obviously, this is problematic, but it also means it probably works. In any event, when her regularly supplier shorts them, Benson deals out some disproportionate payback, which Sitter is forced to clean-up. That also makes him a loose end.

When Benson hires a low-rent hitman with an ugly toupee to kill Sitter, he takes to the wind. Meanwhile, his wife’s Red Hot Riplet guzzling private investigator Jake Liebig starts nosing around the weight loss center for clues. Obviously, this will end badly for the majority of the characters, because that is how noirs roll. Unfortunately, the film craters after a nifty hardboiled second act.

Despite sharing little screen time together, Clayne Crawford and M.J. Brackin convince us the Sitters really do still care for each other. However, the real fun comes from Ken Hudson Campbell as Liebig, the private eye who looks rumpled and slovenly on a good day. Likewise, Heather Roop is entertainingly catty as the ruthless Benson.

The Weight has plenty of good Fargo-like small town skulduggery, but it collapses in a total face-palm moment that was probably intended send a message. Seriously, why? Alabamans can still enjoy their native son Crawford and the Missouri setting up to that point, but they will wish they could take the work-print back into the editing bay and recut it. Getting a mixed review, The Weight screens this coming Saturday night (8/26) as part of the Sidewalk Film Festival, in Birmingham.