Burning Kentucky (2020)

“I’ll tell you man, people watch you like a hawk in this town.”
“Really?” You think having a drunk sheriff daddy, a dead mama, and a junkie brother keeps my name out of people’s mouths?”

— Wyatt West comes to grips with his reality

This effective indie-thriller by actress Bethany Brooke Anderson, in her feature film writing and directing debut, is now currently available as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV; it premiered on VOD platforms in February 2019.

Working with a cast of mostly Kentucky-based community theater actors, Anderson’s cast is lead by the familiar face of John Pyper-Ferguson, who we know from his leading roles on TV’s Suits, The Last Ship, and The 100, and his recurring guest roles on Burn Notice and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You know his The Last Ship co-star Nathan Sutton from his recurring guest roles on TV’s Justified and Fear of the Walking Dead. Amid Andy Umberger’s 100-plus indie film and TV credits, you’ve seen him on 9-1-1, How to Get Away with Murder, NCIS: Los Angeles, and American Horror Story. And you’ve seen Nick McCallum on TV’s CSI: NY and Cold Case.

So, if you haven’t guessed: the acting here is top notch.

While on the film festival circuit, Burning Kentucky won “Best Feature” awards at the Chattanooga, Con Nooga, Garden State, and Mammoth Film Festivals, while cinematographer Matt Clegg won well-deserved nods for his exquisite cinematography. His extensive credits across 40-plus films are in the indie realms; hopefully, after his work here, we’ll see his resume expand into larger-budgeted features.

Yeah, if you haven’t guess: this film is a beauty to watch.

A solidly paced, unraveling film noir increasing its suspense as the screws turn deeper and deeper — with a heart and tone that reminds of Clint Eastwood’s 2003 masterpiece Mystic RiverBurning Kentucky spins the tale of two families in the hills of Harlan County, Kentucky. The first family is an indigenous clan that still practices the craft of brewing moonshine and nourishing themselves off the land. The other’s patriarch (Pyper-Ferguson) is Harlan County’s alcoholic sheriff — and his sons (Nathan Sutton and Nick McCallum) are barely keeping it together themselves; his son Rule (Sutton) is a junkie and the town’s drug dealer. Rule’s girlfriend, Aria (Emilie Dhir, in her acting debut), is a drug-addicted, aspiring country singer.

As with most film noirs, the narrative here is non-linear, and with each flashback, we learn how the lives of these two resentful families are linked amid Aria’s insights and memories as she searches for the reasons behind her family’s death years earlier.

So what is more important? The love of family . . . or bloody revenge?

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request for this film. We discovered it on our own and truly enjoyed the work.

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