Black Crescent Moon wants to be a Coen Brothers movie. More specifically, it wants to be Fargo or No Country for Old Men. It’s none of these things. Not even close.
Charlie Dexton (James Oliver) is the reluctant sheriff of Wrightsville, Texas, a border town so small it seems to only have a population of a dozen or so, a town so small that the mayor is the chaplain as well as the town coroner. Despite the lack of people, the citizenry of Wrightsville is rife with needlessly quirky characters, like a pair of elderly bearded twins who provide weekend entertainment at the local watering hole as an “air band”, Charlie’s father (William Atherton), the previous sheriff, now retired, who does metal sculpture in the nude, and Suzy (Meredith Monroe), a waitress who is obsessed with all things New Jersey.
Alas, these quirky characters don’t t give the movie any additional personality. Since Charlie was born and raised in Wrightsville, he has a long, complex history with all of the inhabitants, which they talk about at length, and in largely abstract terms so none of it ever really makes any sense.
At the moment, however, Charlie has a new problem. There may have been a murder. There is a body of a local trucker face down on the floor in the middle of The Pie Hole, a diner and the social center of Wrightsville with the slogan, “We Never Shut”, which should be, “We Don’t Let Dead Bodies Disrupt the Breakfast Rush”, since they keep serving omelets and gravy fries around the corpse and no one seems to mind.
What unfolds is sort of a mystery. Was it murder? Was it an accident? Was it rat poison or allergies? Did it have something to do with drug smuggling? Somehow, Charlie’s no account brother, Sam (Gil Bellows), may or may not be involved, but regardless of his involvement they have some issues to work out. There is an awkward subplot about Sam running off with Charlie’s fiancé on their wedding day.
Nothing much actually happens in Black Crescent Moon. The characters talk about a lot of things, but there isn’t a great deal of action. Everything they talk about goes back to when they were kids. Numerous conversations start out with Charlie referencing something a character did when they were young. Katelan (Melora Walters) burned down a house when she was ten, and that somehow means that she can’t be a deputy as an adult. There’s a lot of talk and none of it is particularly compelling.
The movie is full of long, static shots of the barren Texas landscape, dominated by the endless sky, while a car drives from one edge of the frame to the other. These could easily be left over frames from the aforementioned Coen Brothers films. These vivid, colorful exterior shots contrast sharply with any scene that takes place inside, which are muddy and underlit.
In theory this could be a visual cue as to the stifling, trapped feelings of everyone in the town, they all want out but are unable to leave. At one point Katelan stands in front of a beaded curtain in a matching sweater and she simply blends in with the background. This was most likely an intentional attempt at stylization, but it simply looks like sloppy filmmaking.
The story rattles on, and Charlie shuffles through scenes doing a sullen James Van Der Beek impression. At the end there is a sad attempt at a shocking twist. It’s tacked on and forced, like the writing duo of Dexton Deboree and Adam Pertofsky (who is also the director, and, oddly enough, was nominated for an Academy Award this year) looked at each other and said, “Hey, no one will expect this character to be the murderer”.
The DVD of Black Crescent Moon comes with nothing but the option for Spanish subtitles. The menu doesn’t even say the name of the movie, it says “Play Movie”, “Scenes”, “Setup”, and that’s it. The best part of the DVD is the cover It features five 20-somethings dressed up as cowboys and Photoshopped in front of a semi-truck, none of whom had anything to do with the movie. That pretty much sums everything up.