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film review

In Sweet Virginia, Jon Bernthal plays a washed up rodeo star running a motel in the middle of nowhere who has to tussle with a sociopathic hitman.Grady Mitchell/The Globe and Mail

Jamie M. Dagg's new film, Sweet Virginia, is a lot to take in – too much, really. It's a revenge movie, a crime thriller, a gentle and low-key romance, and a dusty drama about the pains of leaving the past behind. It doesn't succeed at being any one of those things, too muddled is the script and too unsteady is the direction.

Sweet Virginia is, however, a memorable exercise in against-the-grain typecasting. For instance, star Jon Bernthal is so often cast as the menacing heavy, a villain so slick that his evil announces itself the moment he appears in frame (see: Sicario, Baby Driver, his antihero role in The Punisher). Here, though, Bernthal finally gets to play a true hero, a washed up rodeo star running a motel in the middle of nowhere who has to tussle with a sociopathic hitman. And playing that hired goon is Christopher Abbott, normally employed as an angsty millennial (Girls, James White), but here plumbing deep reservoirs of darkness. The switch-up works handily in both cases, but not enough to save Dagg's otherwise unsteady mashup.