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Review: 'Burn Country' is the culture clash film we all need right now

Posted Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 5:02 PM Central
Last updated Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 5:03 PM Central

by John Couture

It's safe to say that there is a certain level of xenophobia sweeping our country right now. And no, this review will not get political, I promise.

I only mention it to mark this film's place in the world when it arrived on DVD this week. Burn Country is a film that is buoyed by strong performances from some of the best actors in Hollywood, but it takes on another level of meaning given the current landscape in this country.

Dominic Rains is a real surprise as an Afghan exile journalist who comes to a small Northern California town after covering his fair share of war violence in Afghanistan. Beyond simply being a fish out of water film, Burn Country tries to stay above the political sniping to focus on the fears of a small town and its perceived invasion from outside forces.

It just so happens that in this case, that force is a foreigner. The film could have been just as effective had a prototypical southerner moved to the more relaxed environs of Northern California.

It would be easy to call it a poor man's Fargo, because sure, the comparisons are there, but Burn Country doesn't quite reach the former's level of biting satire. Don't get me wrong, Melissa Leo is superb as the local sheriff and proves that yes, any film can be improved simply by her presence.

She takes less than great material and makes it all the better because it's coming out of her mouth. Instead of playing her character anything like the many small town sheriffs that have paved the way before her, she gives her character a certain uniqueness that will continue to resonate with me for a long while.

One actor that I was a bit disappointed with was James Franco. I mean seriously, he's in practically every other movie made these days and I think I've reached my James Franco limit. He's simply playing an amalgam of every other character that he's put on screen and, to be frank, he's a bit annoying and took me out of the film at times.

Other than that, if you enjoy quirky little films that a bit off the beaten path, then give Burn Country a chance.