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Cook County [Blu-ray]


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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Xander Berkely, Anson Mount, and Ryan Donowho explode on the screen in this visceral tale about three generations of meth addicts living in the piney woods of East Texas. Living in a small town and amongst a house full of crystal meth abusers, seventeen year-old Abe (Donowho) wrestles to beat an addiction to meth and struggles to protect himself and his young niece from an abusive Uncle Bump (Mount). When Sonny (Berkeley) returns home from prison seeking redemption from his son, Abe, the two must navigate the treacherous waters created by Bump, who will do almost anything to maintain a dangerous lifestyle fueled by crystal meth. The tension and suspense build up to an electrifying ending where harrowing choices are made by all three men leading each of them to a different fate. Unlike any other movie, COOK COUNTY unflinchingly tells a raw and real story of rural life where crystal meth dictates the family dynamic.

Review

Gritty, lower-depths verisimilitude is vividly sustained throughout "Cook County," writer-director David Pomes' debut feature about a dysfunctional East Texas family torn asunder, and pushed to the brink, by crystal meth dealing and addiction. Despite a few continuity problems, this rough-edged, low-budget drama impresses with spot-on performances, perfect-pitch dialogue and an overall sense that something bad might happen at any moment, unless something worse happens first. Theatrical prospects doubtless will be limited by the grimness of the subject matter, but favorable reviews and buzz generated through fest exposure and blogosphere coverage could attract venturesome auds. Anson Mount dominates the pic with his skittish, scary performance as Bump, a would-be drug kingpin who supplies meth throughout his rural county -- and accelerates his vertiginous mood swings by sampling his own product. Bump is so far gone that he doesn't bother hiding his business, or his addiction, from his 6-year-old daughter, Deandra (Makenna Fitzsimmons). Abe (Ryan Donowho), Bump's teenage nephew, tries his best to look out for Deandra, but the anxious young man also struggles to look out for himself: Having recently kicked his own habit, he finds it hard to stay straight while residing in a house with a meth lab in the kitchen. Abe dares hope things will change for the better when Sonny (Xander Berkeley) -- his father, Bump's brother -- returns after a lengthy, unexplained absence. Sonny claims he, too, has gone straight, and needs just a little time to earn enough money so he and Abe (and possibly Deandra) can have a second chance somewhere else. Trouble is, Sonny has a hidden agenda. And Bump has a loaded shotgun. Without resorting to melodrama or caricature, Pomes persuasively renders the specifics of life, death and drug addiction in a rural Texas milieu. It's a place where tweakers and dealers alike are good ol' boys (and gals), and all the ingredients for crystal meth can be purchased at a convenience store where the owner is too clueless to know, or too cavalier to care. Mount plays Bump as a ticking time bomb, always just one temper flare away from bloody mayhem. But the actor also provides effective shadings of character, so his expression often reveals a flurry of conflicting, contradictory emotions. This is especially true during a disquieting climactic scene in which Bump must decide what matters most, his daughter or his business. Donowho and Berkeley develop an edgy give-and-take, suggesting their characters are bound not so much by family ties as by shared fear. Other supporting characters -- including, briefly, John McClain and Yankie Grant as kindly relatives who provide brief sanctuary for Abe and Deandra -- are well cast across the board. A few transitional scenes are conspicuous by their absence. Auds will be left scratching their heads when, at one point, pic awkwardly lurches from a tense confrontation to a pleasant family outing without explaining how a character avoided what appeared to be certain death. Even so, "Cook County" somehow manages to recover from its occasional stumbles. Handheld lensing by Brad Rushing effectively escalates the mounting dread as Bump nears the edge. --Joe Leydon, Variety

Writer-director David Pomes trains an unblinking gaze on the scourge of crystal meth afflicting rural America in the grim indie drama Cook County...its raw performances and dirty-realist immersion in a harsh environment keep Cook County engrossing. Main setting is deep in the woods of East Texas, where 17-year-old Abe (Ryan Donowho) lives with his permanently fried, meth-dealing Uncle Bump (Anson Mount, seen lately in AMC's Hell on Wheels) and his even-further-gone grandfather (Tommy Townsend), whose lucid moments seem like ancient history. Their isolated house is dilapidated and the kitchen no longer fit for cooking anything but meth. But Bump is a self-aggrandizing blowhard who perceives himself as Paul Revere, heroically delivering truth to the people. No matter that his 6-year-old daughter, Deandra (Mekenna Fitzsimmons), is going hungry and being exposed to a constant parade of human crud. While Abe has in the past enjoyed the oblivion his uncle's freely shared rock can provide, the boy's protectiveness toward Deandra causes friction between them. That rift widens when Abe's father Sonny (Xander Berkeley) returns from a prison stint, determined to stay clean, and to repair his relationship with his son. The story is one of almost unrelenting blight, with Bump growing more menacing as his drug-fueled life becomes threatened. Pomes brings sharp observational skills to the erratic behavior of addicts in scenes such as Bump and his flaky girlfriend (Polly Cole) losing the thread while contemplating a trip to Vegas to get married. Often seen through Abe's eyes as he watches from the door to the kids' bedroom, the meth parties are especially vivid in their toxic sleaze. Shooting in textured Super 16mm, Brad Rushing uses handheld camera in all but a handful of Houston interludes, adding to the jitteriness of an atmosphere pregnant with paranoia and simmering violence. Pomes endows the film with a tangible sense of place, heightening the contrast between the quiet woodsy locations and the claustrophobic squalor of Bump's home. And the soured flavor of small-town life is captured in uneasy scenes in which Abe or Bump's other flunkies are sent to the store for cooking supplies. The cast is solid. Donowho balances anger and vulnerability. Berkeley keeps Sonny's agenda sufficiently clouded to maintain tension. And Mount's sinewy Bump is chillingly persuasive as a man whose only loyalty is to his addiction... --David Rooney, The Holloywood Reporter

There's a certain kind of regional independent movie I really love, the sort that are usually described as "gritty"; They show us credible pictures of people like ourselves or people we know in circumstances that we can imagine. These movies treat their prospective audiences as adults, and seem to be more about telling stories grounded in the verities of human existence than exploiting collective wishfulness or selling us hunks of plastic... The methamphetamine gothic horror Cook County is another of those movies. It shares with films like Scott Teems' That Evening Sun...Vince Insalaco's War Eagle, Arkansas, Ray McKinnon's Chrystal and a handful of other "small" movies I could name an authentic sense of place and a specificity of character that we encounter more often in novels than in screenplays. While the plot might be easily transposed to another part of the country or world, it feels organically rooted in the (fictional) Texas county of the title. ...It seems important to point that out, to emphasize that it is indeed a made-up story, because it seems drawn directly from life, seeded with details that are heartbreaking and precise. (Writer-director David Pomes insists his knowledge of junkiedom is entirely academic. He made up his story after reading a magazine article about the crystal meth epidemic.) But Cook County is not just another drug film loaded with depressing tropes who cannot and will not rise above their addictions; it is a story of plausible redemption, a kind of sorrow-logged family movie (although you probably shouldn't bring the kids). The movie essentially belongs to Anson Mount...who delivers a ferocious, lacerating and - in a better world - perhaps career-making performance as the wild and scary, but weirdly empathetic Bump, a would be meth kingpin undone by too frequent sampling of his own product. Bump lives in a woods with his 6-year-old daughter Deandra (Makenna Fitzsimmons) and his teenage nephew Abe (Ryan Donowho), who provides a fraying layer of insulation between the increasingly paranoid meth dealer and innocent child. Some relief seems to appear when Abe's father, Bump's older brother Sonny (Xander Berkeley), is released from prison and rejoins the family, seemingly determined to restore some semblance of domestic tranquility. Sonny is a pragmatist and a criminal - his goal is not to reform Bump, only to get him to be more responsible and less volatile - but he genuinely cares for his family. As does Bump, albeit in the thwarted, narcissistic way junkies sometimes develop... Pomes gets the family dynamics right in Cook County, as Sonny triangulates the tension between Abe and Bump, and smoothly manipulates them for his own purposes. Bump's increasing madness is both intensified and made more dangerous by his isolation...in the sticks, he's a mad, blind king - a tweaked-up Lear with the means to murder. And while there's nothing glamorous about Cook County - it doesn't romanticize anything about the drug dealer's milieu, it doesn't make it all look fast and exciting like De Palma's Scarface or even doomy-dreamy like Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream - Pomes is honest about why people do drugs. Bump does drugs because drugs feel good. They raise him up from the squalor that is his existence. Meth energizes him, makes him feel alive and powerful ... Maybe they keep him alive and powerful - within limits. Bump is a monster, but he's also like a lot of people out there. He would rather rule in his proscribed half-acre hell than serve in heaven. He's ugly and dangerous and human, a character worthy of Erskine Caldwell or William Faulkner. Chances are, he will remind you of someone you know. Or someone you lost. --Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Anson Mount, Xander Berkeley, Ryan Donowho
  • Directors: David Pomes
  • Format: Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Hannover House
  • DVD Release Date: April 9, 2012
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004SKAI82
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,611 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

So I feel acting the part was done very well!
Jemma Jax
One of the best depictions of drug life and the struggles that lie within.
Krystle R.
This movie will stick with you much like Requiem for a Dream.
sarsime

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By DigitalPaperCut on January 16, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
Simply could not abide this work of Anson Mount being left to wither and die due to having just one single review containing one single star. The first reviewer was perhaps commenting on the depth of human depravity in this film, which is indeed abhorrent and revolting, rather than dismissing the brilliant performances that bring this all-too-real story to life.

The story, dialogue and mood of Cook County could easily be a documentary of rural East Texas drug life with it's broken, neglected children and men who've devolved into human parasites, draining the life out of all who dare to come near them.

I can testify to having witnessed the exact drug-addled ramblings of Anson Mount's addict, which he plays with such blistering reality it boggles the mind. I cannot imagine the writer making this up, pulling only from his imagination, for these exact words are uttered inside these same filthy infested homes by these very depths of human ugliness, not just in East Texas where I saw and ran from it myself, but across the country in counties of every state. No special effects are needed for this journey into drug hell, because the reality of this story is horrific enough on its own with no embellishment required.

Anson Mount is an actor not to be missed, an actor who cannot be ignored for he is mesmerizing on the screen. Those in need of more from this delicious man should consider the entire Hell on Wheels series, even for those like me who are not huge fans all things Old West. One episode in, and I was hooked nonstop until the very last scene of the very last season.

Anson Mount is magical with the ease in which he embodies his characters. I anxiously await more of his work, but this is one actor who does not accept every script that comes along, so my patience comes in knowing whatever comes next will be spectacular.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michele on May 18, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This movie has it all...great cast, good story, gritty look at drug life. Kept my attention all the way through until the end.
Plus..Anson Mount really "owns" this role. One of his best ever!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By trident82 on October 31, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
I'm truly amazed at how authentic, and real feeling this film was. Could honestly pass as a documentary if one didn't know the actors, or read the summary info. Again it's scary how close it's like watching a real life documentary that focuses on both the overall "Meth in rural county" type aspect, as well as the individual effects meth has on the user aspect.

Every actor that had a real part did a fantastic job, ultimately resulting in a brilliant total performance from the cast. Again even the small stand in's had the "authentic" feel to them. I enjoyed "Hell on Wheels" mainly because of Anson Mount, and I rented this film mainly because of his casting.....he delivered one amazing performance, and is now one of my favorite actors. I really hope his career takes off, he must have really researched this part well, better yet methodically. Even physically he nailed the part.

Not a huge review guy, but occasionally a film just nails it...and this one does for sure imho.

Scary authentic feel, with brilliant acting throughout, and ultimately ending with one very real subject matter portrayal.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By victoria dubiel on August 2, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
I wanted to see this movie because I was curious to see Anson Mount. I didn't know anything about the story line and only rate it as average because of the content. The acting was great on Mount's part, as expected, but other than a vehicle for his good acting, who wants to see the gritty side of life, ironically from the comfort of home. It took me days to stop thinking about the horrors of out of control drug usage.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nine Lives on July 15, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
When I first saw this film I was unsure how I would react. Turns out that the story is very deep along with rich characters each with their own flaws and problems as well as two youngsters just trying to survive. The story that is woven is one of sorrow, disgust, thrilling, and at last relief. A must see for those that value a true story with superb acting all around over the CG-Hollywood-Movie-Crap that is shoved down our throats at the theaters.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By a reader on June 22, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
I found the movie very disturbing, but overall, I really liked it. I viewed it more as instructive than entertaining. Also, it was very well made:
* Well-written script
* Good acting
* The depiction of meth life seemed very realistic
* Characters were well balanced, e.g., the bad guys were not over-the-top bad, nor cartoonish
* The way the good characters persevered was edifying

Movies about pathetic losers are usually unbearable to me, and I quickly turn those movies off (e.g., many of Nick Nolte's characters). Somehow, this movie is different. Although the story was disturbing, the overall tone was encouraging, e.g., the way the good guys persevered and the bad guys perished.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MikeinFlorida on November 25, 2012
Format: DVD
I just saw this film and knew when I chose to watch that it wouldn't be easy. I wish that this could be shown to teens. Sort of a "scared straight" variation on the Anti-Drug campaign that we were flooded with in the early 1970's as pre-teens.
My question is....does the father, Sonny go BACK to jail at the end?? It is IMPLIED....Worth watching. Crystal Meth is such a toxic chemical drug that is next to IMPOSSIBLE to kick from what I understand, and the health hazards (What it does to teeth, lungs, internal organs. Look at the chemicals it's made with!!!) Great film.
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