Some of the best crime stories connect drug-trafficking and theft to larger social problems, serving more as an explanation than a condemnation of why people feel compelled to break the law. But sometimes that commentary is facile and forced — even when delivered by filmmakers with the best intentions.
So it goes with “Inherit the Viper,” a routine small-town neo-noir set in an economically depressed Ohio town ravaged by opioid addiction. Director Anthony Jerjen and screenwriter Andrew Crabtree have made something very “of the moment,” but also frustratingly shallow.
Josh Hartnett and Margarita Levieva co-star as siblings Kip and Josie, who make ends meet by trafficking in illegal painkillers, while trying to keep their younger brother Boots (Owen Teague) from following in their footsteps. The neighbors tolerate them — and some even rely on them — until a tragic incident exposes just how tenuous their position in the community is.
The best moments in “Inherit the Viper” are also the most specific about who the siblings are, and about how they conduct their business. The worst moments go broader, using Kip’s military service and Josie’s icy pragmatism as a shorthand to explain their choices.
At both its highest and its lowest, “Inherit the Viper” lacks excitement. The action sequences are sparse, and the plot is underdeveloped. This is a film that calls attention to a struggling region’s problems in a general way, rather than telling in detail the true stories of the people who keep hanging on there.
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood