Set in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, eighteen-year-old Jacob McNeely is torn between appeasing his meth-dealing kingpin father and leaving the mountains forever with the girl he loves.
Ben Young’s Devil’s Peak has a pedestrian feel to it that it just can’t shake, despite the spirited efforts of its cast. Billy Bob Thornton is McNeely, a drug lord in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina who has little in the way of a conscience. His son Jacob (Hopper Penn) finds himself between a rock and a hard place when good old dad insists that he kill a former associate who may reveal what he knows about his operation to the feds. Meanwhile, his mother (Robin Wright) is fighting addiction issues and his wannabe girlfriend (Katelyn Nacon) just happens to be the stepdaughter of a local politician intent on putting McNeely out of business. That the local sheriff (Jackie Earle Haley) is in his father’s pocket doesn’t help Jacob when he decides to break away from his dad’s iron grip.
To Young’s credit, he keeps the story moving at a brisk pace while capturing the depressed nature of the Appalachian community, here seen as an inescapable pit of despair. The cast avoids the trap of simply going through the motions, Thornton and Penn creating an antagonistic chemistry that’s palpable. To the film’s credit, its last 10 minutes come out of nowhere, a violent, surprising denouement that holds water where the film’s narrative logic is concerned. Again, nothing new here but it’s reasonably well-done.
2 1/2 Stars