There aren't too many trees out on the Canadian prairies, but there's still plenty of pulp to go around in Big Muddy, a nicely produced debut feature from Jefferson Moneo.
Nadia Litz stars as Martha, a hustler who's good with horses and okay with a gun but has terrible taste in men, which quickly leads to trouble. In the aftermath of one violent encounter, she ends up taking her teenage son (Justin Kelly) on the lam, and then to the isolated farmhouse where she grew up – the prodigal daughter, back home after years in the big city.
It's a quintessentially Canadian idea mixed in with the material Moneo borrows from various hard-boiled film noirs and sun-dappled westerns. He milks these tropes for all they're worth, but the film gets more predictable as it goes along.
What keeps it enjoyable are the actors: Litz is steely as a woman who lives by her wits, and there's a strong, slimy supporting performance by James LeGros as her ex-boyfriend – a bad dude whom we're rooting to see get his in the end.
Editor's note: Big Muddy is a Canadian film. Incorrect information appeared in the original version of this article.