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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

It Is What It Is

Devil's Peak on IMDb

Plot Overview

College News

Cupid's dartCity of Jackson, North Carolina. All-American sweetheart Maggie Jennings had her stepdad/local DA Bo Jones raid her college fund to finance his gambling addiction. Her boy­friend Jacob McNeely (Hopper Penn) offers to cover it from his meth-dealing savings, but when his mom Virgie (Robin Wright) was busted for prostitution, she let slip about Charlie (Billy-Bob Thornton) her exhusband's illicit, lucrative laundering business, so the DA is black­mailing him for the money. The sheriff protects Charlie for a cut so doesn't want to see him take a fall. A botched hit on stoolie Robbie Douglas (Harrison Stone) left him in a coma, and Charlie wants his son to complete the job as, “The last thing I want to happen is for some s.o.b. to f_ck up our liveli­hood.” Virgie appeals to her son's better nature.

Cultural historian David Hackett Fischer tells us how the British settlers of Appalachia were attracted to the terrain having come from a similarly hilly, rocky region of England. There they had raised sheep. Since sheep were spread out and hard to guard, their economic interests were served by developing a reputation. People knew there would be consequences if they stole a man's sheep. A man's reputation for avenging wrongs was what kept him from the poor­house. This culture is epitomized by the blood feud legendary in Appalachia. The McNeely narrator in this story remarks, “My family meant some­thing. Outlawin' was just a matter of blood as [were] hair color and height.” And of his criminal dad, “He was not the kind of man you wanted to cross.” The “sh!thead” was careless with guarding his safe combination figuring nobody would dare cross him in the first place. And Charlie tells his son, “You know how much life is worth, bud? It ain't worth a plug f­_ckin' nickel.” Honor is to be upheld along the lines of a certain story from a Christopher Morley novel, one regarding “George over­taken by conviv­iality at a convention in St. Louis:”

When the time came for itemizing his expenses, there was fifty dollars that he couldn't account for. It did not seem to have flowed through any of the recognized sluices. George pondered the matter; he did not dare increase any of the existing items; finally he put it down thus: To upholding the honor of Erskine Brothers, $50. He waited anxiously while Sam examined the entry. Finally Sam said some­thing that endeared him to The Boys forever. “Well, George, if you really upheld the honor of Erskine Brothers for fifty bucks, it was a bargain.” (112)


The mom was evidently descended from good Indian stock, the way she contemplated a portrait of one on her wall and extolled her patents' & grand­parents' virtues. She fell prey to the Red man's nemesis alcohol and saw hard times. From her limited small town options, she'd married young (circa 16) to her criminal husband and it didn't last. They were at loggerheads with each other, and Charlie took great pains to insure Jacob turned out like him. Jacob demurred from violence when he was tested, but it was like to be brought out in the end.

hand crank ice cream makerHere we have an intergenerational conflict à la, (Prov. 30:33) “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.” The idea in the proverb is that a state of peace and conciliation can change to one of war just as a liquid (milk) can change to solid (butter) through constant agitation (churning.) Or hit a critical area (nose) and it will bleed. This latter principle is illustrated in the movie when a drubbing the deputy receives from Jacob for having defamed his mother results in a bloody nose.

vegetablesThe former is illustrated by a shot of the blender turning fruit—from a bowl on the table—into a smoothie through high speed flailing. Maggie & Jacob put up with both families' inter­ference for a long time until finally they decided to elope together to the coast. That required money, and Jacob went to get what was his. Some­one had a different idea and took Maggie hostage. Now, this will get a rise out of Jacob.

Production Values

“Devil's Peak” (2023) was directed by Ben Young. The screenplay was written by Robert Knott based on David Joy's novel, Where All Light Tends to Go. It stars Billy Bob Thornton, Robin Wright, Jackie Earle Haley, Katelyn Nacon, and Finn Wolfhard. Kudos to the fine actors, especially Thornton and Wright, who brought some depth to their flawed characters, and to Hopper Penn for his subtle portrayal of a sensitive hill­billy who has difficulty filling his old man's shoes.

This movie is not rated, but the language is crude, the violence shocking, and the bedroom scenes veiled. There was for distraction a sinewy hotsie totsie who dressed down for break­fast. It was filmed on location in a place not picturesque with characters not memorable. The instru­mental country music, Star Spangled Banner, and old timey ditty were its best feature. The car chases included speedometer views from within muscle cars opened up on straight stretches of highway. The shoot­outs didn't waste any ammunition; the red­necks pretty much hit what they were aiming at. It was driven by high drama of middling intellects—five letter words were a spelling challenge & philosophical conundrums a matter of, “It is what it is,”—which along with their speech was slow-paced. Run­time is 1 hour 37 minutes.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This movie makes endemic sin look unappealing, naked savages noble, and troubled teens heroic. It's not a formulaic success for a place on any­body's must-see list, but if this niche material appeals to you, the movie itself is well made and should be satisfying. I liked it, but then I have eclectic tastes.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Not rated, probably to stay within budget. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited or Referenced

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.

Morley, Christopher. Human Being. Copyright 1932, by Christopher Morley. Garden City, NY: Double­day, Doran & Co., Inc., 1932. Print.