This quirky comedic thriller is set in small town Oregon where middle-aged Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey) lives a painfully mundane existence and feels she has nothing to live for until her home is burglarized. This gives her a new purpose in life: find her stolen things including her grandmother’s dishes. Ruth inadvertently recruits her scrawny, clumsy, weight-lifting, prayer-interjecting neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) to help find the missing items. They take matters into their own hands after the police, who are immersed in their own personal problems, offer little help. After tracking some items to a second-hand store, the anti-hero’s stumble into the home invaders and begin a feud that leads to kidnapping, police impersonation, trespassing, illegal gun sales, fire-side plots, estranged families, cappuccinos, woodland chases, abused lawn ornaments, a snakebite, a canoe-escape, and a shoot-out.
This film stands out from other comedy thrillers by making the mockery of life a character and by means of deliciously amusing anti-hero’s. Instead of relying on many sight gags or forced laughs we see resignation humorously challenged with unexpected resolve. Ruth finds the villains dangerous and wicked and their sinister and violent natures seem insurmountable until we see their luck run thin and plans interrupted. In a world that seems terrible, meaningless, and against our protagonist, Ruth sees everyone as an “asshole,” but Tony’s companionship helps her persevere until the end despite his bizarre chivalry. Although a simple plot, this film was so appropriately scored, acted, directed, set, and shot, it delights to the end. Cinematically jarring transitions from melancholy dialogue to scenes of sudden violence create moments of comedy, suspense, and surprise. The picture is heightened and enriched with a classic frog-in-the-pan experience slowly building the film-watcher’s inner tension and relief, cycling upward into unexpected resolutions for some.
The title of the film, chosen from an old gospel song, fits this wildly engaging and profoundly fresh story of honest postmodernity, unlikely friendship, perseverance, and hope. By looking through a prophetic lens we can see beauty in the clash of dark versus light, isolation verses community, the broken city versus the wild strength of nature, and the redemptive pursuit of restoration and balance, even though a lot of people die. This film is worth immersion as an oddly endearing and enjoyable celebration of creative and colorful entertainment. Plus, you get to see Frodo throw ninja stars.