Josie is a slow burn thriller that, while infused with a film noir aesthetic, thrives as a character driven drama. The less you know about the film the better, as spoilers may ruin your viewing experience. Thus I’ll tread lightly in my review.
Sophie Turner is the titular character, a sexy, self-assured young woman who moves into a nondescript motel. Hank (Dylan McDermott) is one of the area’s residents, a brooding loner that may either be paralyzed by his past or is simply a ticking time bomb. It’s hard to get a read on Hank, and that’s one of the many intriguing elements of the storyline.
Jack Kilmer (son of actor Val Kilmer) is Gator, an immature high schooler who’s immediately attracted to Josie, and though he comes off as a bit too cocksure for his own good, is comfortable with Josie’s willingness to take charge of a situation.
Gator and his trouble making buddies love harassing Hank who parks in front of the school with his pick up truck to serve as the school’s de facto security guard. It’s a dead end job that’s only worsened by Gator’s mischief, and their mutual dislike for one another will eventually come to a head. Josie forges relationships with both men, and one can accurately assume that there’s more than meets the eye to Josie’s intentions.
Director Eric England, who let his creative freak flag fly with the outrageous hostage/black comedy thriller Get The Girl, takes a refreshingly stamped down approach with Anthony Ragnone II’s screenplay (it made 2014’s The Black List under the previous moniker Hunstville). England had the opportunity to turn Ragnone’s deft mixture of pulp and moral conflict into a lurid and possibly prurient look at a young lady’s effect on her new neighbors. Instead, England connects us with Hank’s own closed off life (his only friend, prior to Josie, is a tortoise he tends to in his makeshift/DIY patio), and McDermott delivers standout work.
Though gifted with the narrative’s showiest role, Turner wisely plays the material close to the vest, as overdoing her part with overt sexuality or campiness would have derailed the film’s refreshingly sublime underpinnings. Both Turner and McDermott exhibit solid chemistry with one another, leading viewers and neighbors to question the motivations behind this seemingly inexplicable union.
My only quibble with the narrative is that the film’s “twist” is easy to figure out due to an exposition laden sequence (which is actually well done and needed) between two of the characters. That being said, neither the twist nor Sophie Turner’s short shorts are the main reasons to see Josie. There’s much more substantial elements that anchor the story (Kurt Fuller is particularly effective and comedic as Hank’s way too ingratiating and nosy neighbor Gordie).
Running at a lean and mean 87 minutes, Josie may look like a tawdry seduction thriller that panders to the lowest common denominator (trust me, I love those movies as well), but credit goes to England and his crew for delivering a story that’s much more substantial. Giving away the film’s ultimate theme would cheat viewers of the mysteries that lie behind Josie’s surface, and though we live in a social media obsessed world where secrets may be a thing of the past, I’ll continue to stay behind the times. There’s a ton of mystery waiting to be uncovered, and if you’re in love with character based dramas that simmer under a cinematic slow cooker, Josie’s the way to go.
RATING: 4 out of 5
Josie hits theaters and On Demand March 16. I also discuss Josie on the latest episode of CinemAddicts – take a listen below!!