Netflix’s Small Crimes is a bitter, barren, gnarled piece of work that leaves an uneasy vacuum in the air as it passes. If you haven’t heard of it yet, that’s because the platform does almost zero promotion when new content comes off the assembly line, quietly slipping it onto the site without so much as a tv spot. Some are forgettable, and some are gems that could have done with a bit of buildup. This one is like David Mamet, Cormac McCarthy and Elmore Leonard sipping whiskey sours one cold, empty night and brainstorming ideas. I love the time honoured themes presented here, but what I love and admire more is the filmmaker’s courage in completely subverting, perverting and putrefying the formula. There’s countless films about disgraced cops, criminals or what-have-you who return home to a small town with designs on putting the wrong things right and finding a modicum of redemption. Thing is, in 99.999% of these films, we end up with a happy ending where all the kinks are ironed out and bygones are left as such, a trend which really cripples the stakes and grinds our expectations down with a blunt, predictable Hollywood ending. Not this one. Nikolai Koster-Waldau, aka Jamie Lannister, is a wiry, cracked out ex con who used to be a cop, before he viciously, and I do mean viciously, sliced up the town DA at the behest of a crime kingpin. Moping back into the county following a six year stretch in the pen, it’s inevitable that his very presence will stir up a few noxious vibes. Sure enough, he runs into trouble from all angles, including the vengeful DA (“, looking like he shaves with a wheat thresher), a scummy corrupt detective (Gary Cole eats up the dialogue like candy), the mobsters he used to be employed by, and even his parents (Robert Forster & Jacki Weaver), who are clearly broken by the past. There’s a feeling of inescapable doom, an inevitable choking quicksand that Waldau wades deeper into,
his seemingly noble intent on reconnecting with his wife and daughters gradually ground away to reveal the true nature of his path, and it ain’t pretty. Gary Cole has a way with words and mannerisms, and he runs away with his bent cop role, stealing scenes like nobody’s business. Forster has salt of the earth gravitas in spades, and nails a near career best scene with clear eyed conviction, nailing our attention to his presence. It’s not a perfect film though, there’s pacing issues, sometimes it gets a little vague or scattered and a romantic subplot involving a nurse (Molly Parker) seems glaringly out of place. Waldau anchors it though, a twitchy, unpredictable ne’er do well who seems cosmically incapable of getting his act together. The ending floored my expectations and remind that there is hope for fresh narratives and abstract thinking amongst writers. You’ll come out of this one bruised, but you’ll be glad you sat through the beating.