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Big Muddy: Noir meets nuance on the Canadian prairies

Movie still of Big Muddy.

Union Pictures

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Big Muddy
Written by
Jefferson Moneo
Directed by
Jefferson Moneo
Starring
Nadia Litz, Stephen McHattie, James LeGros
Genre
Western
Country
Canada
Language
English

There aren't too many trees out on the Canadian prairies, but there's still plenty of pulp to go around in Big Muddy, a nicely produced debut feature from Jefferson Moneo.

Nadia Litz stars as Martha, a hustler who's good with horses and okay with a gun but has terrible taste in men, which quickly leads to trouble. In the aftermath of one violent encounter, she ends up taking her teenage son (Justin Kelly) on the lam, and then to the isolated farmhouse where she grew up – the prodigal daughter, back home after years in the big city.

It's a quintessentially Canadian idea mixed in with the material Moneo borrows from various hard-boiled film noirs and sun-dappled westerns. He milks these tropes for all they're worth, but the film gets more predictable as it goes along.

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What keeps it enjoyable are the actors: Litz is steely as a woman who lives by her wits, and there's a strong, slimy supporting performance by James LeGros as her ex-boyfriend – a bad dude whom we're rooting to see get his in the end.

Editor's note: Big Muddy is a Canadian film. Incorrect information appeared in the original version of this article.

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About the Author

Adam Nayman is a contributing editor for Cinema Scope and writes on film for Montage, Sight and Sound, Reverse Shot and Cineaste. He is a lecturer at Ryerson and the University of Toronto and his first book, a critical study of Paul Verhoeven's SHOWGIRLS, will be published in 2014 by ECW Press. More

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