White Lightnin' (2009)
By: Rip on September 13, 2010  | 
Madman | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Dominic Murphy
Starring: Edward Hogg, Carrie Fisher
Screenplay: Eddy Moretti, Shane Smith
Country: UK
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Jesco White (Edward Hogg), 'The Dancing Outlaw', is the last of the Appalachian Mountain Dancers. Through voice-over narration, he looks back on his life the way he recalls it, beginning with his younger years as a boy growing up in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia with his poverty-stricken family. With an unshakeable knack of getting in to trouble, an addiction to lighter fluid, self harm and constant spells in juvenile detention centers, his father, D Ray (Muse Watson), decides to teach him mountain dancing as a way of keeping him on the right hand of the Lord, as well as the right side of the law. But Jesco remained the rebel and was eventually sent to the local mental hospital for some period of time. His compulsive behaviour, ie; sudden outbursts of violence, he called "The devil inside me."

Later in life, Jesco uses his dancing to keep his demons at bay and spends his time traveling from town to town with a guitarist in tow and performing at various grubby dives to earn a living. It is during his travels that he meets Enid (Carrie Fisher), or Cilla as he likes to call her and whom ultimately leaves her husband and family just to be with him. They set up a trailer-home by the side of the road, traveling everywhere together, and for a while, all seems grand. But Jesco's madness and uncontrollable rage are always bubbling beneath the surface, and one day, when his fragile existence is shattered, all hell breaks loose…

A British production, shot in both the USA and Croatia, White Lightnin' is based on the true story of Jesco White and it is a very harsh, graphic motion picture. It's also a very, very good one. Whilst it's a bleak, downbeat tale of one man's futile battle to straighten himself out, there are still glimpses of hope along the way, especially in the portrayal of the relationship between Jesco and Cilla. Carrie Fisher, in a rare screen appearance, is simply divine as Cilla and the actress lets it all hang out in a role like you've never seen her play before. But the star of the show is undoubtedly rising newcomer, Edward Hogg, and it's an impeccable performance. Demure one moment, a raging inferno the next, Hogg is a tour de force. Director Dominic Murphy, along with writer/producers Shane Smith and Eddy Moretti, have crafted a bold, nightmarish tale of Southern darkness. The film is stylish, but not for the sake of it. At first glance, Tim Maurice-Jones excellent cinematography appears to have been shot in black & white, but has in fact had almost all the colour drained from it. Only in significant moments during the narrative do we see a little more colour infuse the screen. Coupled with an incessant soundtrack, itself made up of various demonic rockabilly tunes (including the music of Hasil Adkins, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, etc) and haunting industrial soundscapes, the whole effect matches Jesco's drug-addled state of mind and gradual descent in to full blown madness.
Shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm, the 2:35 anamorphic widescreen image is grainy, but clear, with colour almost defused and Madman's transfer replicates this intended look more than adequately. And don't be too concerned when your screen suddenly goes black intermittently, especially during the first half hour; it's intentional. I'll admit, it certainly had me fooled momentarily!
Sound plays an important part in this film and the 5.1 and 2.0 surround offerings are solid. The phenomenal soundtrack consists of a mixture of both rockabilly, country and hillbilly banjo tunes, along with some creepy incidental pickings by Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeah, and it's all nicely balanced with the dialogue and narration. English subtitles are also included for the hearing impaired.
Extra Features
Other than a few trailers for other great Madman releases, there is sadly nothing in the way of featurettes or commentaries. This is a shame, given the real-life origins of the film and the fact that the principal character has been the subject matter of four documentaries. It would appear that all releases in other regions are the same.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Lord have mercy, this is one hell of a film! It's 'rednecksploitation', it's 70's revenge horror and it's 'I Walk The Line' turned upside down. Anchored by a phenomenal lead performance and an awesome soundtrack, this one demands to be seen. Hallelujah! Amen.

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