Texas. To finance a weekend treat for his friends Sue (Davis) and Bobby (Allen White), B. J. (Huffman) steals cash from his crime-linked boss, Giff (Mark Pellegrino). After Giff finds out, the kids must do him a dangerous favour to pay him back.
Cowboy noir was almost a movie thing in the 1980s and ’90s, thanks to movies like Blood Simple, One False Move and Red Rock West. The genre is informed by the great pulp novelist Jim Thompson (The Getaway, The Killer Inside Me), whose shadow looms large over We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, a solid entry in a current indie revival of the form that includes Blue Ruin and Cold In July.
The motor of the story is the complicated relationship between three teenagers — with the daring, outgoing B. J. (Logan Huffman) sinking his smarter, more cautious, more ambitious friends into trouble partially through deeply buried malice and envy, to forestall his girlfriend Sue’s (Mackenzie Davis) ambition to leave town for college and the likelihood that she’ll also hook up with the more bookish, fatally meek Bobby (Jeremy Allen White). Directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins and screenwriter Dutch Southern make B. J. more than a simple sociopath, but he’s a troubled and dangerous character, perfectly played as appealing yet subtly offputting by Huffman.
This has a twisty plot involving a real robbery and a sham heist, with schemes within schemes and reversals that serve to get affable nice guy Bobby and whip-smart Sue — a devotee not only of Jim Thompson but Nancy Drew — deeper into trouble. Cowboy noir depends on a juxtaposition of old Western hats and a roundabout way of speaking with the rusting detritus of a post-industrial contemporary America — as the title suggests, this West is somewhere you escape from rather than light out for. Here, a huge cotton factory makes a suitably picturesque, grim backdrop for a climax where the threats finally spill over into violence, with friendly face William Devane showing up as a local kingpin at precisely the point when things need to get worse.
The unfamiliar young cast all show a lot of potential in a well-thought-through, sting- in-the-tail plot. Its a well-assembled genre movie rather than a great statement, but none the worse for it.