Author turned screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto made his name when he created crime drama True Detective, and he returns to the Texan landscape for his latest feature with French filmmaker Mélanie Laurent on directorial duty. Based upon Pizzolatto’s novel of the same name but adapted for the screen under his pseudonym Jim Hammett, road thriller Galveston follows ailing hitman Roy (Ben Foster) and young escort Rocky (Elle Fanning) as they go on the run from a dangerous mob, and of course, the law. They seek solace in Roy’s hometown, but it’s only a matter of time until their chequered pasts catch up with them.
Following the intense coming together of the central pairing in the opening act, the focus isn’t so much on the plot but on the development of the juxtaposing characters. There’s more to Roy than your average beer-swilling thug, and Rocky is part femme-fatale, part damsel-in-distress, but with an added layer of complexity on top. Against a dusty backdrop, Pizzolatto slowly reveals their backstories and an unlikely alliance is formed. Though the criminal helps teenage girl narrative isn’t wholly original, the film puts a Southern slant on the noir tropes, propped up by the hard-hitting performances of Foster and Fanning. Breathing life into the flawed outlaws, they are visceral and uncompromising in their understated portrayals.
It’s a strange but solid foray into the crime genre for Laurent, who cleverly zones in on the rich subtext rather than the, quite frankly run-of-the-mill context of the story. Taking Pizzolatto’s gritty Lone Star material, she crafts a brooding and bruising slow-burn drama.