When you talk about the American South, two things instantly crop up. A thick, American accent that helps you figure out the story you are watching and where it is set, and bouts of random violence that erupt out of nowhere. Debutant director Matthew Yerby’s ‘The Dirty South‘ has both those aspects even though characters keep getting back and forth on the accent. 

The story kicks in with a voiceover by Sue Parker (played by Arrow alum Willa Holand). She runs a dive-in bar on the bank of the river in North Louisiana and starts the proceedings by making us aware of the class division that this river brings about. On the one side of the river are the rich folks with big mansions who only get richer by the day. The other side is reserved for people whom these American movies would like to call ‘trailer trash.’ These people are almost always in debt, caught up in some legal mess, or running towards self-destruction. 

Sue’s father, Gary (Wayne Pére), who owns the bar, is the living embodiment of trailer trash. Sure, he is running away from demons that haunt him, but his inability to keep things in check and bring about a good life for his young son Jacob (Caleb Quinney) really pisses Sue off. She, on the other hand, is a headstrong woman who makes sure she does her best to keep everything steady and pay off things that would not come back and bite them in the ass.

However, in spite of her best efforts, the Parkers find themselves roped into a mess that they can’t get away from. Rich property owners from the other side of the river – Jeb Roy (Dermot Mulroney) and his wife Jo Ann (Laura Cayouette) had a personal vendetta in the past with Gary and more recently with Sue, who briefly courted their only son Mark (Andrew Vogel). Since Mark has recently returned to town after years of study, The Roys now want to acquire the bar and the home of the Parkers – leaving them with nothing unless they can come up with $30,000 within three days’ time. 

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté
Willa Holland and Shane West in 'The Dirty South.'
Willa Holland and Shane West in ‘The Dirty South.’

Knowing full well that his drug-addict, drunken father would never do anything to get that money, Sue decides to take it upon herself to save the bar. Since she has been running the business on her own, she sees it as a way to finally have some kind of ownership over it. However, she is unable to figure out how to come up with that sum in such a short time. As she is marinating over this problem, Dion (Shane West) – a sexy drifter, walks in and literally cleans out the entire bar of their wallets. Sue witnesses everything, and the two somehow come to a common ground of Dion helping her get that money she so direly needs. The collaboration involves the duo trying to go on a wallet-stealing spree before they just randomly hop onto bigger crimes. Things go ‘south’ with Sue getting wrapped in a chase against time and the risk of getting caught. 

Now, I’m not gonna lie; for what’s its worth, The Dirty South does a fairly good job of reeling the viewers into the messy lives of these messed up people. These are flawed characters that Matthew Yerby is trying to conjure up, and the little character developments he offers them give the film an interesting edge. The film is characterized by men taking up violence as the final end of dealing with things, and while the film doesn’t offer any kind of commentary on the disparity these characters feel beyond the money they own and the demons they chase, it does a good job of bringing that to one’s notice.  

Willa Holand’s Sue is the most intriguing character here. Thanks to a great screen presence from the young actress, Sue never feels one-dimensional in spite of the writing not providing her with enough dough to chew on. As a woman who is forced to grow up a little too early, her dilemmas and anger are palpable. However, everyone other than her feels pretty standard, and the acting is borderline wooden. The presence of actors like Dermont Mulroney and Shane West doesn’t help raise the film above the direct-to-video bandwagon. 

The last act of The Dirty South is given a Christmas Day backdrop for some reason, and while there are numerous leaps of logic throughout this crime saga, I’d still recommend you to check the film out because Yerby feels like a promising voice who could do better with a bigger budget at hand. 

Read More: Mid-Century (2023) Movie Review – A ghost-revenge tale that is undone by its own internal design

The Dirty South (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
The Dirty South (2024) Movie Cast: Willa Holland, Shane West, Dermot Mulroney
The Dirty South (2024) Movie Genre: Action, Crime, Drama | Runtime: 1h 47 Mins
Where to watch The Dirty South

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