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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 01.11.20] thriller drama

A decade ago, Inherit the Viper would have been a far-fetched drama about a family dealing with the implications of cooking meth or dealing heroin or something equally dramatic. I say far-fetched because movies about drug dealers rarely took place in small towns and with every-day folk at the centre of them. But in the shadow of the opioid epidemic, Anthony Jerjen's feature film debut isn't only believable, it's also a story that we've already heard and that could unfold anywhere.

Josh Hartnett stars as Kip, the head of the Conley clan which also includes Josie (Margarita Levieva) and younger brother Boots (Owen Teague). Kip is a veteran, a soon-to-be father, and works at the local factory and while he may think he calls the shots, Josie is the de facto head of the family. She's the one that handles the bulk of the family business which largely comprises of dealing pain killers to the town's addicted; a career that has troubling consequences, as is usually the case with any illicit activity.

Kip wants out and when a typical sale goes south, he sees it as an opportunity to get out but stepping away from the drug business is never a clean break.

Andrew Crabtree's script feels overwritten, and the characters all have just a little too much going on. Kip isn't only a veteran but his wife is also pregnant with their first child. Boots is dealing with being an outsider and not quite knowing his place in the family. Josie is lonely, angry and unhappy about being treated as second fiddle by Kip though she's the one keeping the family afloat. Mixed into all of this is the looming figure of the sibling's dead father.

The premise of Inherit the Viper is fairly mediocre stuff and there are a number of poignant documentaries that really hit home the realities of how prescription drugs are destroying small-town America. Everything here is just a little too convenient but Inherit the Viper is still an interesting watch, almost exclusively for the performances. Hartnett has always been an interesting actor and while he's kept busy the last few years, the movies and performances have been mostly forgettable. Here he knocks out a nuanced, emotional performance that shows what he's capable of. Margarita Levieva is consistently good in her various TV roles and this is no exception. She's strong but there's always a small nuance of fragility playing in her eyes. Bruce Dern also makes an appearance in a role that he seems perfectly made for: a cantankerous bar owner.

Under other circumstances, Inherit the Viper would be a forgettable family drama but the performances elevate the predictable material and Jerjen does a wonderful job of capturing the desperation and turmoil of addiction and how this epidemic has decimated not only the people but also the places they inhabit.

Inherit the Viper opens theatrically and is available on VOD January 10.

Recommended Release: Inherit the Viper

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lkkjh (2 years ago) Reply

how is this a PA film?


Lily (9 months ago) Reply

It's not a bad movie if you don't mind a slow burn but the ending feels a bit disappointing.
Oh and Kip is not the head of the clan. It's Josie who leads the whole thing and he can't get her to stir away from the family business.

It's easy to always assume the male lead is the alpha in any group but if he was, it would be a whole different story.

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