A cop’s act of heroism goes bad in Badwater.
But then nearly everything goes bad in backwater Badwater, Wyo., where the adults are mostly mean-spirited and the kids are mostly on meth. So, in a fifth outing, there's State cop Antonio Burns (Crossing the Line, 2004, etc.) working in the vicinity and about to get unlucky. Once a law-enforcement golden boy but now out of favor with his bosses, he’s patrolling his woodsy beat, accompanied by wonder wolf-dog Mungo, and trying hard to do something foreign to his nature: stay out of trouble. Not in the stars for Anton, Badwater being that close. There are screams. Panicked people in a clearing. Anton manages to glean that a ten-year-old boy has disappeared into deep water; he dives in after him, finds him, pulls him out—but it’s too late. The boy, Badwater’s Cody Willis, has drowned, and the town goes into lynch mode, dooming Anton’s attempt to keep a low profile. To every last impenetrably insular citizen, it seems irrefutable that Cody did not go into the water by accident. He was pushed by a no-good named Jonah Strasburg, he of the exotic tattoos, the spiky, jelled hair, the unseemly facial jewelry and—most serious of all—his not-from-these-parts-ness. To Anton, the case from the outset is problematic, and soon enough he becomes convinced Cody’s death was more accident than not. Jonah did indeed push—in truth, he was provoked into pushing—but there was no intent to do harm beyond that. It’s a tragedy, but not the murder case single-mindedly pursued by an ambitious, cocky county attorney whose dislike of Anton is intense and of long-standing. Bad days in Badwater for Anton. For Jonah, too, of course.
But that’s the trouble. Badwater is so bad, so unburdened by redeeming qualities, that evil becomes banal, and what might have been a superior thriller loses its edginess.