Matt Palmer’s Calibre

It’s funny how in one instance of miscalculation, a situation can turn deadly and lives can spiral irreparably out of control. Matt Palmer’s Calibre, a stunning Scottish Netflix original thriller, shows just what happens when two Edinburgh pals (Jack Lowden & Martin McCann) venture out into the rural highlands for a hunting trip and some friendly interaction with the local townsfolk, some of which are amicable and receptive towards these two city boys, and others who are not. But… it’s their own damn fault if I’m being honest. Firstly, after a night of pubs and partying, one of them gives cocaine to a troubled local gal and ends up sleeping with her, which already puts them in hot water with her volatile father and his goons. What really gets them up the creek though is when they accidentally shoot and kill a hiking father and his eleven year old kid on their hunting excursion, and instead of simply telling the villagers what they’ve done and fessing up like real men, they bury the bodies and play dumb like a couple of pansy fools. Well something like that never stays buried and soon it’s a nerve frying game of suspense as to when these two bodies will be found, how the townsfolk will correlate the city boys involvement and what will be done about it. There’s a lot of films where city folk piss off country folk and horrible things happen, but this one ditches the lurid, pulpy overtones of something like Deliverance and levels with us on a plane that’s decidedly more down to earth and grounded, yet no less chilling. As in many tight knit small town communities there are two elders who collectively call the shots but have differing outlooks and personalities: a hotheaded, violent piece of work with unchecked rage issues (Brian McClay, Scotland’s answer to Ray Liotta) who wants to deal with the these two swiftly and ruthlessly, and a more level headed, calm and rational man (Tony Curran, excellent) who wants to aim for the least damaging outcome. These two provide terrific performances and a fascinating dynamic for this brutal, tragic turn of events to unfold in. I’ll be honest, I was rooting for these townsfolk the entire time; they were initially hospitable, reasonable albeit rowdy people who did their best to be nice to these outsiders, who in turn showed them disrespect at every turn and instantly made neglectful, stupid decisions to get themselves into trouble, then into further trouble. What did they think was going to happen? This story plays out in very believable fashion, the characters behave in a way that makes sense, cliches are consistently and cleverly avoided and substituted with realistic beats and relatable human character decisions, it works as a crackling thriller, dark morality play, grim cautionary tale and atmospheric rural nightmare. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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