Shotgun Stories

Rated NR

This low-budget, no-name-cast, Southern-gothic film has a few strikes against it. The soundtrack is painfully indie, with lots of open-hand acoustic guitar that spells “mood” with a capital “OOD.” And lead Michael Shannon looks like he just got out of acting class and is really eager to try out that new look they showed him. (It involves squinting and frowning!) But in spite of that, if you give it a few minutes, Shotgun Stories winds up redeeming itself. The story is about three brothers who get into a feud with their cross-town half-brothers, the children of their father’s second wife. There’s blood and sorrow and snakes and dogs and all the things that make the imaginary South so compelling. I won’t say it’s entirely successful, but writer/director Jeff Nichols is someone to watch. There’s about an 80 percent chance that his next film will be a painfully self-conscious and arty family drama that could suck the life out of a 16-year-old rave girl, but there’s still a 20 percent chance that he’ll see the best elements of Shotgun Stories and become a top-notch, small-film director.

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