Shot before Scott Eastwood’s profile boost through roles in films like The Longest Ride and high profile casting in the upcoming Fast & Furious 8 and Suicide Squad, the actor made Mercury Plains. This neo-noir falls with many of the more negative trappings of the low-budget indie movie, but is nonetheless an atmospheric watch.
Written and directed by Charles Burmeister, the film follows Mitch (Eastwood), a young man leaving his problems behind in the US and drifting around in Mexico. He’s soon scouted by a paramilitary group of teens fighting the country’s drug cartels, but finds himself making the wrong impression.
Burmeister directs this tale with a laid-back languorous eye as we see our protagonist find his way around brawls in dive bars and ultimately his new paramilitary troupe in the baking desert. Cinematographer Philip Roy makes strong use of the setting’s scorched surroundings to craft a barren, uneasy atmosphere throughout Mercury Plains, mirroring our protagonist’s discomfort regarding his new surroundings. In these stages Burmeister taps into the spirit of nineties pulp neo-noir combining sharp violence with woozy, dreamlike surroundings.
Mercury Plains could benefit from a tighter editing which would help with the somewhat slow pacing that can occasionally make the film feel tired. However, there is an awareness of this with the film shoehorning in some moderately effective action scenes to keep viewers watching. The most welcome of these action scenes comes in the film’s final moments when Burmeister crafts a conclusion reminiscent of the classic western where our villain rides into the desert leading to a barrage of bullets and bloodshed.
Fortunately a big saving grace comes in the form of Eastwood himself. Whilst this is certainly never going to be regarded as the actor’s big dramatic moment – it’s a solid early role that allows him to show some moderate range and inject some broody charisma into the fold. The actor successfully conveys Mitch’s laissez-faire aimlessness as he drifts around without much purpose, however, later manages to present the overwhelming pressures that come about through his new found “career”. In the shallowest terms, it also helps that Eastwood is a looker and when pacing gets that little bit too slow, or style a little bit too woozy, then a shirtless scene with the rugged actor is never too far off.
There’s a fair bit to appreciate in Mercury Plains’ style and Eastwood’s lead performance, enough to forgive the somewhat tiring pacing.
First featured on The People’s Movies.
Director: Charles Burmeister
On DVD now.