“Uncle John” stars character actor John Ashton who is perhaps best remembered from “Beverly Hills Cop” (as John Taggart) as the title character whose murder of a local bully who has gotten religion consumes his time. The pacing is almost slow motion compared to fast paced thrillers but the film is impossible to stop watching.
Directed by Steven Piet (who co-wrote the feature with Erik Crary) “Uncle John” is his fledgling effort in the chair. The film starts with an old fashioned preacher teaching his flock about Hell fire with shots of a wounded bald man staggering to a body of water next to a small boat.
John follows with an oar in his hands and when the injured man stops moving, face-down in the water, John gets busy.
Throughout the course of the film we learn that the dead man is named Dutch and he was the terror of the community until he had a religious conversion because of a vision. The town bully burned down barns, stole money and was having an affair with Dede, John’s wife.
Confession may be good for the soul, but Dutch’s almost frantic attempt to make amends with those he mistreated leads to his death.
Danny, the dead man’s brother suspects John of having something to do with his sibling’s disappearance and he shadows the carpenter looking for clues. Meanwhile, John’s nephew Ben (who he raised when the boy’s father deserted him) meets Kate his new boss and the two slowly move into a relationship.
Slow the film certainly is, but uninteresting it is not. The dialogue has a ring of truth and a natural feel that moves things along steadily. The characters all seem like people we have known or worked with before and this adds to the feeling of truth that the film imparts.
Lack of a fast pace allows the audience time to connect with the characters. John, the older man moves at a relaxed speed, even when destroying evidence, and later in the film we see that he has patience to spare.
Newcomer Alex Moffat plays Ben, the nephew who takes the long way around while romancing new boss Kate (Jenna Lyng), and the actor is reminiscent of Nicholas Brendon in his “Buffy” days. Moffat has a natural delivery that makes his courtship with Kate work. His is a likable character, as is Lyng’s, and these two young people with their separate storyline dovetails nicely with the main plot.
Ronnie Gene Belvins as Danny, Dutch’s brother, is all creepy determination and he is fixated on John, quite rightly, as the main suspect for the murder of his brother Dutch.
It is Ashton however that moves the film resolutely forward as his character grimly takes the next step and the next to cover his crime. John’s stoic and matter-of-fact movements where he obliterates evidence speaks volumes about the man and when he rests, looking tired from his exertions, the look in his eyes is spot on.
(Reading between the lines, and filling in the gaps from information gleaned later, Uncle John snapped when the newly converted Christian Dutch confesses what happened with John’s wife.)
This rage induced act starts the man on a journey of maintaining normal appearances while destroying evidence and later committing another crime.
(Sidenote: It has to be noted that each time John destroys evidence he wears gloves, except when he moved all the fishing tackle on to Dutch’s boat. Apparently the local cops never dusted any of the missing man’s effects for prints. Of course local law enforcement also believed that Dutch fell in the lake and drowned…)
“Uncle John” was shot in Wisconsin and the scenery along with the use of local actors makes for a brilliant looking and sounding film. (Those accents.)
The film is an easy 4.5 stars out of 5. For anyone expecting car chases, buckets of gore or a pace that that is adrenaline fueled, give this one a miss. Fans of films that offer real sounding dialogue and characters that keep your interest will adore this one. Streaming on Netflix at the moment, and available on Amazon, this is one to watch.