Camille Keaton brings a devilishly fun attitude, but “Cry for the Bad Man” just misses the target with a story that is only half-cocked.
“That old woman,” as the three men who want her home and land continuously refer to her, has been preemptively pushed aside and dismissed. As evidenced by her mug shot, that old woman, Marsha (Camille Keaton), has a past that these men didn’t bother to look into.
Keaton has a remarkable look for a film like this. She’s a grown woman with a raspy voice and years of experience behind her. But 40 years after I Spit on Your Grave, her eyes remain those of a timid young woman, giving the false impression of an easy target. An older woman doesn’t get any respect from younger men who are up to no good, and in Cry for the Bad Man, that’s their number one mistake, with a bullet.
After the death of her husband, a trio of men threaten violence toward Marsha if she doesn’t give up her home, something Marsha turns to the local police looking for help with. Turns out Deputy Pyle (Victor Jones) is just as crooked as the three men, going out of his way to cover for them, claiming the group to be a random bunch of “good ol boys playing a prank.”
With no one else to turn to, Marsha takes matters into her own hands, Wild Wild West style.
It’s not really clear why the land or house is so wanted by these men — all brothers named Derrek (Eric Dooley), Billy (Christopher James Forrest), and Wayne (Scott Peeler), the clear leader of the pack — wanted so much so that they’re willing to kill for it. In the grand scheme of over-the-top genre entertainment, such a detail may mean very little, but it could have added a little more depth to the already slim story.
All we know is that life is crooked in this small town, a lifestyle supported by muted colors and a deep stretch of dark woods surrounding Marsha’s property. A dark setting for a dark film, Cry for the Bad Man is a gritty showcase for the worst of us — and what the good of us must do sometimes in order to survive.
When Derrek rightfully asks his brother what happens if Marsha doesn’t hand over her land, Wayne replies with, “She’s an old woman, accidents happen.”
As he cocks a gun and places it on the table, Wayne assumes he has the upper hand in the situation. This good ol’ boy just became the bad man (Peeler is excellent here, a chilling, cold-hearted bastard). But it’s this ignorance that leads to a shotgun blast to the belly, spilling the blood of Billy the moment they return to Marsha’s house, expecting this transaction to be easy.
It’s anything but, and Marsha’s not fucking around. With a heavy drumming, synth-infused soundtrack backing her up, she appears to be actually enjoying herself — leaving little doubt that she’s in charge of this party.
The film is loaded with Southern tough guy and tough girl talk, as the characters one up each other with lengthy and devious banter.
While never completely boring, Cry for the Bad Man does meander with this continuous threatening talk between the characters, a dangerous game to play with people pointing guns at each other. But these characters are content firing more insults than gun shots, and you wish more action were happening, like someone’s head being blown open or something. And you wouldn’t mind for that someone to be Derek, who annoyingly stumbles around grunting and growling for what seems like forever after getting his hand blown off.
That hand being blown off is a superb effect though. And when the action does happen, the film doesn’t shy away from the red stuff.
The one setting chit-chat wears a little thin and feels stretched at even just 73 minutes, struggling at times to keep things interesting. There are a handful of great moments, and Camille Keaton is an absolute joy to watch whipping around a shotgun, still teaching young men a lesson.
However, Cry for the Bad Man isn’t shooting with a full chamber and doesn’t offer enough firepower to be that interesting of a thriller.