Directed by: Josh Sternfeld
Starring: Nick Stahl (Mirrors 2, Carnivale), Rachel Nichols (Charlie Wilson’s War, Conan), and Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Warrior)
Sometimes just simply watching everyday life can be the perfect inspiration for screenwriters and directors who want to perfectly reflect the conflicts of small-towns across America. As Josh Sternfeld, who wrote and directed the new crime-drama-thriller ‘Meskada,’ thought of the fights over territory, the class system and human rights across the country, he visited small towns throughout the U.S. to witness their everyday way of life. What came out of his journey was not only a showcase of these small towns’ way of life, but a plot filled with intrigue, suspense and murder.
‘Meskada’ follows detective Noah Condin (played by Nick Stahl), who works in the small, peaceful town of Hilliard. He’s assigned to a case involving the murder of the young son of Allison Connor (portrayed by Laura Benanti), an affluent woman who works on the Meskada County Board of Commissioners. Noah believes Allison’s son was murdered in the heat of the moment, as his killers only entered the Connor house to burglarize it. His killers didn’t realize he was there, and needed to get rid of any witness to the crime.
While the killers left little evidence at the Connor house, Noah still believes they had some kind of connection to his hometown of Caswell. Noah is joined by county detective Leslie Spencer (played by Rachel Nichols) to investigate suspects in Caswell. The townspeople are outraged by the investigation, as it’s driving Caswell into further financial straits, and Noah and Leslie fail to arrest any of their suspects.
At the top of Noah’s suspect list is construction worker Dennis Burrows (portrayed by Norman Reedus), as he can’t provide an adequate alibi, and has been convicted of larceny in the past. Dennis becomes upset that Noah interrogated him. Dennis’ brother-in-law, Shane Loakin (played by Jonathan Tucker), and Shane’s friend, Eddie Arlinger (portrayed by Kellan Lutz), who are also traveling construction workers, also become weary of Noah and the rest of the HIlliard police as the investigation continues.
Sternfeld made the right decision in not focusing on just one side of the law. By following Noah and Leslie and chronicling the lives of the townspeople of Caswell, including Shane, Eddie and Dennis, the audience comes to understand each side’s emotions and actions. Viewers are left wanting Noah and Leslie to arrest whoever killed Allison’s son, but at the same time understand that the town’s need to get on with their work to get past the town’s economic depression. As Sternfeld said of his “quintessentially American story,” he created “characters in two towns…bound by loyalty, family, community and a battle born of circumstances beyond their control.”
Sternfeld also said he’s always been fascinated by the work ethic of cops from such shows and movies as ‘NYPD Blue,’ ‘Se7en’ and ‘Homicide.’ As a result he created unique, humane detectives who genuinely cared for others. Noah, for example, wanted to keep his wife and son safe. When people began tormenting them at home for not cracking the case, Noah did whatever he could to protect them. As a result, he was more determined than ever to solve the murder. He also showed his son how to protect himself, so he wouldn’t be killed the same way.
While Stahl perfectly humanized Noah in his family life, and proved he was dedicated when questioning his suspects, Shane and Dennis’ relationship was the most interesting to watch. Tucker and Reedus definitely had the best tension together on-screen. Dennis is married to Shane’s sister, and is upset his brother-in-law doesn’t get a high-paying job so that he could move out of his family’s home. The two make their feelings of disdain towards each other known, and aren’t afraid to fight with each other.
While it would have been easy for Sternfeld to just stick to Noah’s side of the story, as he’s interested in police dramas, he surprisingly added context by showing the viewpoints of many of his characters, including Shane, Dennis and the Caswell community. Many viewers will constantly be left questioning what they’re told throughout the entire unfolding of ‘Meskada.’ Rated R for language, some violence and a scene of sexuality, the movie will certainly strike a cord with not only people from small towns who are struggling to survive financially, but also with those who have lost someone or are determined to find the truth.
Written by: Karen Benardello