Steel Country

 

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A British director's confident treatment of a crime story set in America.

 

Steel Country 

Andrew Scott

 

Having been made in 2017, Steel Country has taken some time to reach us but it is a well-made film and one that finds the British director Simon Fellows tackling a story set in Pennsylvania. Aided by the photography of Marcel Zyskind, he captures admirably the atmosphere of an area of industrial decay, albeit that the movie was shot in Georgia standing in for Ohio. The story played out against this background starts when a 6-year-old boy is found drowned in what is claimed to be an accidental death. What follows is a conventional tale showing how the truth is unearthed, but it is made out of the ordinary due to the character of the investigator. With the local sheriff (Michael Rose) buying into the notion that no crime was involved, the man who does the investigating is one Donny Devlin (Andrew Scott), a sanitation worker who, plagued by Asperger's syndrome, is loved by his 11-year-old illegitimate daughter (Christa Campbell) but generally looked down on. However, he empathises with the child victim and sets out to prove that the boy's mother (Kate Forbes) was right when she told him that her child was too shy to have wandered off alone as the police have it.

 

Putting this character screen centre adds something distinctive to this genre piece even if, in contrast to, say, Fargo (1996), the film as a whole is hardly exceptional. Nevertheless, Steel Country has enough good qualities to make for pleasurable viewing. The contributions of Fellows and Zyskind do much, but this is also a film notable for strong performances. Andrew Scott's reputation is building steadily and, although this movie is two years old, he is screen centre throughout. If the screenplay itself doesn't give much precise information about Donny's disordered state, Scott fills the role out by his admirably convincing attention to detail. But it's not a one-man show: Bronagh Waugh as the woman who shares Donny's sanitation work and helps him over his obsessive desire to get at the truth comes over well, and there's good work too from Denise Gough as the mother of Donny's child and from newcomer Christa Campbell as that child. Coming in at around 90 minutes, Steel Country is not overextended and, although the twists and turns of the plot are too standard for this to be a truly memorable work, all those involved in the making of Steel Country can feel justly proud of their efforts.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Andrew Scott, Bronagh Waugh, Denise Gough, Michael Rose, Christa Campbell, Sandra Lafferty, Eric Mendenhall, Andrew Masset, Christian Finlayson, Kate Forbes, Jason Davis, J.D. Evermore, Nolan Cook.

 

Dir Simon Fellows, Pro Gareth Ellis-Unwin, Leon Clarance, Mark Williams and Tai Duncan, Screenplay Brendan Higgins, Ph Marcel Zyskind, Pro Des Erik Rehl, Ed Chris Dickens and David Arshadi, Music John Hardy Music [sic], Costumes Lorraine Coppin.

 

Zero Gravity Management/Bedlam Film/Motion Picture Capital/Cuckoo Lane-Bulldog Film Distribution.
90 mins. UK/USA. 2017. Rel: 19 April 2019. Cert. 15.