The presence of David Gordon Green's name in Shotgun Stories' billing block is probably both a blessing and a curse for the reception of Jeff Nichols's feature film debut. On the one hand, it broadcasts what sort of film this is—an earnest character study with a touch of that neo-Southern Gothic quirkiness that Green has made his own. But on the other hand, it will probably authorize some unforgiving comparisons to a style of filmmaking that—judging by the maddeningly uneven Snow Angels—even Green himself seems to have exhausted. With a trailer for Green's Seth Rogen-James Franco stoner comedy Pineapple Express and head-scratching rumors of a Suspiria remake circling the internet, it's becoming clear that even Green is anxious to move on from the type of filmmaking he patented, even as a cottage industry of similar films flourishes.
Fortunately for Nichols, however, there is much to Shotgun Stories that elevates it above the fray of Green derivatives and unflattering categorizations. For one thing, his tale of two warring sets of half-brothers in semi-rural Arkansas is bolstered by a roster of naturalistic, fully assimilated performances, led by Bug's now ubiquitous Michael Shannon.Click here to read Leo Goldsmith's review of Shotgun Stories.