Movie Review: Blow the Man Down
Blow the Man Down is a crime film about a small fishing town in Maine where two sisters have to cover up the murder one of them committed in self defense. Yet, while they try to act normal, a separate body is discovered and one murder becomes entwined in the other revealing the town's seedy secrets in the process. It stars Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor, June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, Annette O'Toole, Skipp Sudduth, Will Brittain, Gayle Rankin, and Margo Martindale. It is written and directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. This film is exclusively streaming to Amazon Prime members.
I think when the film opened with men dressed as modern fishermen as they sing on screen I was in for a weird gem of a film. Blow the Man Down does not disappoint in any aspect. It's like the Coen brothers had written film where instead of their usual cadre of male character actors, they just hired the best character actors who are women. The interesting thing is that these women aren't playing what men would typically play in a film like it. They're still playing housewives, struggling entrepreneurs, madams, and prostitutes. Yet, while focusing on them as the mystery unfolds, they never feel like caricatures, but fully fleshed out humans.
With great characters comes an excellent story. As the police bumble around attempting to solve the murder, the townspeople in various capacities look to cover their tracks or to solve problems before they get to be bigger issues. I love the way the triad of women are the shadow government of the shady business. I love how they act as a mob family not with intimidation, but with gentle nudges and baked goods. It's such a great conceit and an excellent way to deepen the mystery.
Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Kurdy are deft writers, but that would be nothing if they didn't also have a knack for visual clues and hints. We see the pieces being put together, the sloppiness of each crime, the moves spotted by other players in the game and the secrets logged for later on. With cinematographer Todd Banhazl and editor Marc Vines, Cole and Kurdy have created a crime film to place among the pantheon.
What really struck me as well were the exquisite design touches. Many times in films like these, houses and buildings may look similar or too lived in and busy, but not in Blow the Man Down. There's a crispness and a unique purpose to the settings of the houses. Designers Jasmine Ballou Jones, Danny Walton, and Katie Lobel have built a unique town out of the ideas of what we think of as small East Coast towns. The detail they add to the mystery is incomparable and essential to the mystery itself. From their mazes of lobster traps to the lovely decor of the brothel, there is a great look to this film.
There is no other actress I want to write more about than Margo Martindale. She brings a unique and exquisite fire to her roles and Blow the Man Down is no different. She eschews her natural drawl for the harsh Northeastern accent to embody the chilling power of her character who will drip honey in your ears if only to drown you in poison when you're down. Martindale is to great at playing the antagonist and even better when she gets to let out her emotions in a fierce torrent of bile at a moment when she's got no cards left to play. She's a joy to watch and someone impossible to look away from.
Blow the Man Down won't be for everyone, but its violence and explicit sex are mostly left to the imagination or off screen, which benefits it in the long run. It's an incredibly well put together dark comedy and is a film I will have on my mind for a long time to come. Do yourself a favor if you love the Coen brothers or crime mysteries, check this one out.