Chief Moore is curious about the new minister who just arrived in town.
The Quarry is a 2020 direct-to-Internet film by writer/director Scott Teems, based on a 1995 novel by Damon Galgut. The novel was set in South Africa and dealt with race relations after the end of apartheid. The film resets things into a small town in western Texas called Bevel, where an itinerant preacher named David Martin (Bruno Bichir) is about to arrive to take up the position of minister in the town’s only church. We don’t even realize that Martin is a preacher at the opening of the film, as he is driving around in an old beat up commercial van and taking swigs from an open bottle of wine. On his journey, Rev. Martin sees a man passed out on the side of the lightly trafficked two lane highway he is traveling on. He stops to help the man (Shea Whigham), offering him a ride in his truck, and tries to get to know him as they travel together and stop for meals. Martin senses that the man is a tortured soul, and he tries to offer counseling. But the man becomes increasingly hostile to Martin’s attempts to minister to him. At a pit stop at an abandoned quarry not far from Bevel, the two get into an argument that turns deadly when the man knocks David to the ground, accidentally killing him with a head injury on some rocks. Shocked and not sure at first what to do, the man (we never learn his real name) goes through Martin’s things in the back of the van and discovers the letter inviting Rev. Martin to Bevel to assume the ministry at the church. For some reason, the man decides to masquerade as the Rev. Martin and continues on to the town, after hastily burying the real minister’s body in some shrubbery at the back of the quarry.
Valentin and his younger brother Poco walking along the tracks.
When the man (now going by the name David Martin) arrives in Bevel, he asks directions from a boy (Alvaro Martinez) hanging out on the street to the home of Celia (Catalina Sandino Mareno), who rents out rooms, and provides one as a temporary rectory to whoever the current minister is. David is somewhat unsociable to her, and heads to his room where he falls into a deep sleep until the next day. When he does wake up and goes to the van to get his things, he discovers that the van has been broken into and stripped of its goods, and even its tires. This somewhat surprising turn of events then brings in the police chief (Michael Shannon) of the small three man force to investigate the crime. Chief Moore, who likes to keep a handle on everything and everyone in the town, meets David Martin, but something about him seems suspicious, even though he is the crime victim here. Another thread in the plot line is that Chief Moore and Celia are in a romantic relationship, and he asks her about her new boarder. (Of course his suspicion later turns out to be well justified.) The new David Martin knows nothing about religion and has to borrow and read through a Bible to try and put together some sort of service for his first Sunday at the church. Ironically, it turns out that only one person in the congregation understands English, so his church service which consists of mainly reading aloud passages from the Bible is not questioned. One of the members of the congregation is bi-lingual, and is willing to translate the things that Martin says. But his plain and non-liturgical services for some reason appeal to the congregation, and over the weeks, the numbers continue to grow at his services. They like him because “He speaks without judgment”, something they normally do not expect from an Anglo.
The Chief and Celia are having an affair.
Meanwhile, we learn that the theft of Martin’s van was done by the young boy (named Poco) and his older brother Valentin (Bobby Soto), who is a local drug dealer in town. By going through all of the real David Martin’s things, they learn a lot about who the minister is supposed to be, and a picture confirms that he is not the man now using his identity. With Bevel being such a small town, it doesn’t take Chief Moore long to figure out that the two of them were most likely responsible. They arrest Valentin and while they are chasing after Poco, he discovers the body of the real David Martin. The chief then decides to pin the murder on Valentin, based on circumstantial evidence. But Valentin is very passionate about his innocence. He angrily protests based on his lifetime of distrust for the authorities and the long history of racism in their community. This all begins to build toward the trial of Valentin, where Chief Moore asks David Martin to testify for the prosecution, something that Martin is obviously very uncomfortable with. All of these threads now come together as the story builds toward its climatic ending.
Valentin and Poco go through the dead preacher’s belongings.
The Quarry has the potential to be a compelling drama about morality and life in a small western town, but the pace of the story never totally grabs you, due to its slow pace, and the main characters need more to do. Probably the most compelling character is that of Valentin, and Bobby Soto gives a passionate performance as he tries to protect his younger brother Poco from prosecution and protests the racism of his arrest for murder. The other main actors do well enough with the script, but certainly the relationship between Chief Moore and Celia could have had a much larger and more important role. Most of all, we never really get to understand “the Man”, what his background was, and why he chose to masquerade as the preacher that he killed without any familiarity with the religious life. Bevel might be a small town, but in Western Texas it would be part of Bible-belt country, so you would expect the people there to be much more knowledgeable about what is expected of a minister. Would either of the David Martins in this film actually qualify to be hired without at least one interview, especially given the nature of the congregation? And why would David Martin make a rest stop at the quarry, when it was only a short distance from the town of Bevel in the first place? If Chief Moore had suspicions about David Martin, couldn’t he do a little investigation through normal police techniques? These details make the story much less believable in an American setting than the original novel setting in South Africa. The Quarry is interesting for the acting performances, but less so for its contrived plot.
Chief Moore tries to get Valentin to confess to the murder.
At the court hearing, Valentin goes for something hidden in his high top chuck.
Bobby Soto (Valentin) and Alvaro Martinez (Poco) both wear black chucks in the film. Bobby wears black high tops, while Alvaro wears well worn black low tops. Chucks are typical and popular footwear for young Hispanic males in Texas and elsewhere. The best chucks close up is during Valentin’s trial, when he removes a handmade shiv hidden in his left shoe as part of his plan to escape custody.
Valentin removes a hidden shiv as part of his plot to escape.
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