It’s normal for an audience to be distracted by the picturesque Alaskan landscape in Sugar Mountain or the tunes sang by Blackwater Railroad Company. After all, filmmaker Richard Gray uses these pleasant qualities to soften up his highly unlikable movie.
How unlikeable is Sugar Mountain? Two scheming bratty brothers (Shane Coffey, Drew Roy) and their enabling accomplice/friend (Haley Webb) try spinning a faux survival story into an opportunity for fame and fortune. Meanwhile, a cynical cop (Cary Elwes) plays with his power as he figures out a way to bust the liars while a gruff and violent thug (Jason Momoa) acts as a threatful hidden motive behind the charade.
I have no problem with a film featuring desperate, morally bankrupt characters. All I ask for is that the writing and the direction find ways to make motivations interesting and intriguing. Unfortunately, director Gray and screenwriter Abe Pogos soak their thriller in a sad, inaccessibly cold coat of depression, and each role becomes flatter and more illogical as the story paints itself into a corner. The sincerest desperation in Sugar Mountain comes from an undercooked final reveal uttered by an actor who doesn’t totally believe it either.
Sugar Mountain needed to be more like Blackway, a campy backwoods thriller I recommended to the VOD crowd earlier this year. Blackway might’ve been flawed, but it delivered on what it wanted to be. Sugar Mountain, a film in need of simplicity, confuses straightforward filmmaking with middle of the road storytelling as it tries to appease different movie goers with tepid, half-cocked working parts.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie