Film Review: Whitetail (2021)

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Stars: Jason Douglas, Billy Blair, Paul T. Taylor
Director: Derek Presley
Distributor: Reel 2 Reel Films

“Nothing about this is fair.”

Venturing out into West Texas, a family consisting of a father (Tom, Tom Zembrod), uncle (Frank, Paul T. Taylor), and son (Donnie, Dash Melrose), embark upon a hunting exercise that transcends from an attempt at family closure into a fight for family survival in Whitetail. What seems passable as a routine redneck pastime of deer hunting, or an initiation to establish family pride, all seems well until a wounded target is found on the floor: a human.

The family trio  – but mostly the cowardly father – are plagued by the decisions to be made surrounding the body…and the accompanying backpack loaded with cash. Money can change a life, though it can also take life, as seems to be the case with the body found by Tom. Does he dare risk the safety of his even-weaker brother and autistic son? 

Transitioning from hunter to hunted, Tom and his family are not alone in the woods: say hello to Rickey (Jason Conviello), the brother of the man found with the backpack full of cash. In pursuit of his brother’s location, he too has a hunter over his shoulder: Jesse (Billy Blair). A cold-hearted villain and taker of hostages, Tom finds himself and his two family members caught in the middle of a bullet-ridden showdown, deep in Texan woodland. 

For as exciting as the plot summary of Whitetail reads, there is a serious lack of energy or excitement for a great duration – though, preceding with a dialogue-heavy narrative for majority of the film manages to work great wonders. On the flipside of that, however, once the stakes are increased and the energy is burnt, the sudden boost shocks the system to a degree. Contextually, the dialogue is of a mature and deep nature. For great lengths, Whitetail is viewed as a mature film. 

Beyond the instances of dialogue-heavy intrigue and depictions of inconsistent masculinity, Whitetail is a crime film at heart, or at least identifies as one, come the final act. For what too has the feel of a noir film or neo knock-off of a Coen brothers film, a somewhat unwelcomed viciousness is established within the final act and increased involvement of Jason Conviello’s crazed and psychotic Rickey. Though it can be argued that Whitetail becomes in dire need of a little edge and spice, there is something both riveting and unwanted with regards to Rickey, and especially his tortute methods. If an overwhelming ridiculousness had failed to be present within Rickey’s aurora, and instead, his actions and attitude were as straight as a closed gun, then the acts of violence within this film would have been close to being unbearable to watch or comprehend.   

Ultimately, under the supervision of writer-direction Derek Presley, Whitetail has its magnificence as well as its demons. Equipped with excellent acting performances from every angle, and presented beautifully within an excellent rural scenery, there is something special about this film wanting to be exploited, but unfortunately, the ceiling caps Whitetail off as a prototype for something bigger and better.

Whitetail is available now on digital in the UK. Many thanks to both Aim Publicity and Reel 2 Reel Films for the plreasure of this film.

3 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source, Reel 2 Reel Films, Fair Use

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