Amy Hargreaves, CJ Wilson, Irina Gorovaia, Jason Abrams
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Freestyle Digital Media
Movie Review: Hungry Dog Blues
It was in October 2020, the heart of a global pandemic, when writer/director Jason Abrams returned to his hometown of St. Louis to amp up the volume on his debut feature film Hungry Dog Blues, a smalltown crime thriller set in rural Missouri about two estranged brothers who kidnap the lead witness against their incarcerated father in an effort to prove his innocence.
Filmed in 17 days in a small rural area outside St. Louis on a friends and family budget of around $150,000, Hungry Dog Blues radiates the real-life inspiration that led to Abrams writing the story and opening up not so distant memories. Hungry Dog Blues feels fresh because it is fresh.
Hungry Dog Blues benefits greatly from its strong ensemble cast including the easily recognizable Amy Hargreaves as Ronnie, the lead witness who complicates an already complicated situation. Recognizable from such efforts as 13 Reasons Why, Blue Ruin, and Sister Aimee, Hargreaves is the kind of actress who consistently surrenders to her characters and that's precisely what she does here. It's mesmerizing to watch.
Abrams himself impresses as Charlie Whithers and you can feel it in his every move how much Abrams resonates with this character and with this story. Irina Gorovaia is equally impressive as Tina and C.J. Wilson shines as Terrence Whithers. This is a terrifically strong ensemble with a fantastic chemistry.
Lensing by Chris Braun captures both the beauty of this rural setting and the desperation that plays out in every word of Abrams' dialogue here. Braun often allows the lens to linger just a wee bit longer than we're comfortable, an approach that somehow deepens our immersion in the story. The original score by John Carey is a sublime companion to the film's narrative landscape. Visual effects by Basilic Fly are incredibly effective and used wisely.
Hungry Dog Blues posssesses a sort of comfortable midwestern charm where one just knows there's more going on than the rural landscape would seem to indicate. There's a sense of danger, some imagined and some very real, and these characters who seem so ordinary we become aware are so much more complex.
Yes, there are times that Hungry Dog Blues wears its low budget on its cinematic sleeve, though for the most part every challenge faced by the film seems to benefit its storytelling. Picked up by Freestyle Digital Media, Hungry Dog Blues will be released on April 25, 2023.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic