The Civil War is rarely referenced in feature length films nowadays. The extremely violent war seems to be brought to screen only if it’s in a documentary. The new independent drama The World Made Straight manages to bring The Civil War into the mix but only as something referenced by the main characters. It is however cleverly mentioned so as not to overwhelm the film’s story but provides for a rather interesting piece of history setting the tone for the film’s 1970s world. It is a decent film with some excellent performances but other than that, the story is tired and the action, sort of a letdown.
Taking place in a small Appalachian mountain town sometime in the 70s, Travis (Jeremy Irvine) is a 17-year-old loner searching for answers. He’s a bit lost and when he stumbles upon and steals a huge crop of marijuana, he enters a world of absolute trouble. After attempting to sell the crop to local drug dealer Leonard, aka “The Professor” (Noah Wyle) and alerting local drug lord Carlton Toomey (musician Steve Earle) and his son Hubert (Marcus Hester), Travis soon begins fearing for his life. Having nowhere else to go, he takes shelter in The Professor’s trailer, where he is seduced by his live-in girlfriend Dena (Minka Kelly) which only serves to exacerbate things.
The World Made Straight is one of those small indie films that usually falls through the cracks. It has all of the ingredients of a decent film but that simply isn’t enough. Based on Ron Rash’s novel of the same name and directed by David Burris (Survivor, Monster House), The World Made Straight is a straightforward character drama that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a sobering look at humanity. The Professor is the straight man and voice of reason set against a rough terrain of unsavory individuals (i.e. the Toomeys and in some instances, Dena). It is also a story about people who have fallen from grace and how they are now just scraping by.
Noah Wyle does his best Keanu Reeves impression here as The Professor, a man riddled with problems, most of which stem from poor life choices. He used to be a notable teacher with a wife and kid but now, all that’s gone and he’s left peddling pot to the townsfolk. His character is probably the most interesting in The World Made Straight and his personal journey is documented very well. Though a bit wooden, Wyle still gives a charged performance that will linger for a bit after the credits roll.
Expect to see this movie on Netflix Instant in the coming months because it seems to have been tailor made just for that format. A big budget blockbuster, this is not and the cast is a who’s who of B-list actors including a hillbilly Haley Joel Osment who is a painfully underused in a supporting role. Steve Earle is another highlight as the sinister drug kingpin who strikes fear into everyone in town. His menacing persona is on par with that normally seen in a Coen brothers film. Basically, The World Made Straight is nothing special but if you are craving some late night drama and want to see some rather solid performances, then I’d say give this film a shot.