Director: Lane Skye and Ruckus Skye
Writers: Lane Skye and Ruckus Skye
Starring: Danielle Deadwyler, Ezra Haslam, Jayson Warner Smith, Brad Carter, Adam Boyer, and Catherine Dyer
The Devil to Pay (Also known as Reckoning in some countries) is the first film to be written and directed by Lane and Ruckus Skye, after a few shorts that the couple had worked on together. It tells a story about the bond between a mother and her son, and then lengths that she will go to protect him.
After her husband left without any sign of when he will return, Lemon Cassidy (Danielle Deadwyler, The Harder they Fall) is left to look after her farm and raise her son, Coy (Ezra Haslam). They live as part of a self-governed society in the Appalachian Mountains, and the head of one of the families, Tommy Runion (Catherine Dyer), reveals that Lemon’s husband had left on a job and hadn’t returned. Since his debt was left unpaid, it’s up to Lemon to pay the rest of it off.
Lane and Ruckis Skye have masterfully crafted a moving and engrossing story from the opening frame to the moment the credit starts to roll. The whole thing flies by and you’re completed engaged with what’s happening. The first five minutes tells you everything that you need to know about the film. It starts with establishing shots of the mountain range with an overcast sky, with text on screen telling why people moved to the mountains in the 18th century. The score comes in, with an ominous banjo playing, telling you that this isn’t going to be a happy tale. The first scene of Lemon standing on her front porch, with the wind slowly rattling the windchimes. It perfectly sets a dark and downbeat tone, settling you in for the film.
Almost immediately it then picks up with upbeat music while Lemon and Coy rake up leaves and have fun together throughout their day. There’s still a sadness when Coy looks over at his mother sitting alone on the porch, he misses his father. The downbeat energy the first few times the porch is shown foreshadows what’s coming later when a knock at the door means that Lemon is summoned to Tommy for her task.
Danielle Deadwyler delivers a stunning performance as Lemon Cassidy. Especially when she’s on screen with Ezra Haslam, who play’s Lemon’s son. There’s a tenderness between them that’s authentic. The chemistry between them is so natural, you won’t be surprised to find out they are mother and son in real life. Within the first five minutes of them sharing the screen, you know everything about their relationship. You’re instantly invested in their lives, so when the inevitable happens and things start to get dark, then it’s heightened that much more.
Then you meet Tommy, who is played by Catherine Dyer perfectly. She’s a sinister and extremely menacing character. Lemon has to walk quite a distance to get to her house, and the first sign of who Tommy is, is a human ear nailed to a post. Tommy lives up to this by being a lovely and homely person who is always baking treats, before turning nasty. When she starts to intimidate Lemon, she drags a chair over to her, the scraping echoing, as the camera hangs on previous dragging marks, showing how often this tactic is used.
The script is really tight, not wasting a single moment. It runs at around eighty minutes, and genuinely flies by. Every story beat has a reason, building to something. Even scenes that seem pointless, come back around. There’s a moment where Lemon delivers a package in exchange to borrow a car to complete her mission, and at first it seems pointless. She’s delivering something to a cult-like group of people, and it feels like a side quest on her journey, but it comes round again towards the end.
The Devil to Pay is excellent. It keeps a fast pace, has some tense moments and at its heart is extremely excellent performances from Deadwyler, Haslam, and Dyer. It’s exciting to think what could come next from Lane and Ruckus Skye.
Signature Entertainment presents The Devil to Pay on Digital Platforms 17th January
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