It’s tough to figure out whether “Don McKay” wants to be a noir thriller, a black comedy or both. Just when it heads one way, something happens to suggest the other. This constant push-and-pull process keeps the indie film from being a true gem, although it’s certainly worth a viewing.
Behind the blah, generic title is a more-than-serviceable mystery about sad-sack school janitor Don (Thomas Haden Church, who also co-produced). He’s called back to his hometown after a 25-year absence when his high school girlfriend, Sonny (Elisabeth Shue), sends him a letter. She’s dying, and doesn’t want to be alone for her final days or weeks or months, and hopes to rekindle their flame. With Don being lonely “ and, let’s face it, Sonny being white-hot “ he’s more than game.
Of course, nothing is as it seems, and a crime of passion changes everything, threatening to ruin Don’s apparent one shot at happiness. Some of it you’re going to see coming, because writer/director Jake Goldberger wants you to. But some of it will surprise you, and the semi-original end delivers a twist upon a twist upon a twist.
That’s not to say it’s entirely successful. Its pacing is a bit slow, and tonally, a little too off-kilter to gel. Church and Shue, however, are both fantastic “ no shock, since they continually turn in good performances, no matter whether the vehicle is worthy of their underrated talents.
Its Coen brothers-esque final shot is genius; if only other scenes carried as much of a gleeful punch. “Rod Lott