A Single Shot
Those of us who have ever been hunting before realize that there is a terrible possibility with a high-powered rifle: if you miss, the speeding bullet can very well continue traveling past the intended target, and hit something you didn’t intend. Or someone.
John Moon (Sam Rockwell) had gone hunting early that morning not for sport, but for something to eat. His life lately has not gone as planned. He lost his job, his wife left him (and took their toddler son with her), and so he lives by himself in a run-down double-wide trailer out in the country, near the farm which his folks used to own, but his Dad couldn’t hold on to it. And now his parents are gone, and have left him with…nothing. He’s turned into an iconoclast with obvious signs of depression: unkempt appearance, sleeps too much, drinks too much, drinks alone, lives in squalor, unemployed, very little social life. He seems to have one friend, Simon (Jeffrey Wright), who will have a drink with him, and once even brought a couple of “party” girls over, but John wasn’t much interested. See, he’s still carrying a torch for his wife, who works at the local diner, but she’s already moved on to someone else…someone who might actually successfully support her and her son.
The fateful morning when John Moon stumbles out of his double-wide in search of deer meat, he’s in too big a hurry to take his time and be careful about his shooting (an experienced hunter should know better), and after apparently wounding one, he sprays several shots “in the vicinity,” hoping to get lucky with the kill shot. Well, he manages a kill shot, all right, but it’s a young woman, and she’s no longer breathing.
John briefly panics, but soon discovers that she was “hanging out” in an abandoned shed, and there he finds a stash of cash, which he could surely use.
So, he tries to cover up the body and take off with the cash.
But it’s a small town, and his suddenly being flush with dough itself raises suspicions. John pretends to be oblivious, and at the recommendation of his friend Simon looks up the local slimy lawyer (William H. Macy in a bad wig and a great character role), “to get his family back.”
But in this dark, brooding, backwoods tale, nothing is that easy. John starts to get threatening phone calls. Someone shoots his dog. Someone throws a rock through his window with a message attached. It seems the local drug dealers are looking for some lost cash, and figure John knows where it is. And they play rough.
Yes, there is gratuitous nudity (though no real sexuality, and no love anywhere in sight). Yes, it’s dark and gritty and so convincingly backwater that sometimes the thick accents are difficult to decipher. Yes, the violence is up close and personal. But John Moon is a character that we start to care about, not because he’s so likeable and affable, but because we so strongly identify: we’ve all messed up, and even though it’s our own damn fault, we find ourselves in one of those awful traps where the harder we try to extricate ourselves, the worse it gets.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas