The Badge (2002)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Police Drama, Post-Noir (Modern Noir)  |   Release Date - Apr 19, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Writer-director Robby Henson, who made the underseen Civil War drama Pharaoh's Army, captures the contemporary South in his solid second feature, Behind the Badge. Billy Bob Thornton plays Darl, a bigoted small-town Southern sheriff, in a role disconcertingly similar to his role as a bigoted small-town Southern prison guard in Monster's Ball. The similarities between the two films reportedly hurt Behind the Badge's theatrical distribution prospects, and the film ended up premiering on cable. While not as viscerally powerful as Monster's Ball, The Badge has a lot to recommend it. It features strong performances by Thornton and Patricia Arquette, and an exemplary supporting cast including William Devane, Julie Hagerty, Thomas Haden Church, and, bringing life to what could have been a clich├ęd role as Darl's disgraced, mentally unbalanced father, Tom Bower. Henson, a Kentucky native, does a good job capturing seedy small-town politics and prejudice, and the Southern atmosphere (aided by a bluesy soundtrack featuring Otis Taylor) feels authentic. The Badge is clumsily edited in spots, and a scene of Arquette, in a blue wig, singing in a New Orleans nightclub seems strangely like something lifted out of Blue Velvet. It's pretty obvious early on who the killer is, and Henson ties everything up a little too neatly, but overall The Badge is an absorbing and well-acted drama.