‘Josie’ is certainly no pussycat

Dylan McDermott and Sophie Turner in ‘Josie’

“No man knows the virtue of innocence and integrity but he who has lost them” – William Godwin

In a small town in the South, the arrival of “Josie” (Sophie Turner – X-Men: Apocalypse) raises eyebrows.  She’s a high school senior, without parents present.  She moves into the Pink Motel and on arrival convinces fellow motel resident “Hank” (Dylan McDermott – Olympus Has Fallen, The Campaign) to help her move into her room.  He is a transplant from Texas and little is known about him by the residents of the motel and the students at the high school where he is a truant officer.  He is a loner who spends his free time in his room or on the patio where he is caring for two tortoises.

When Josie goes to her first class at the high school, she also catches the eye of “Marcus” ( Jack Kilmer – The Nice Guys) and “Gator” (Daeg Faerch – Ditch Party).  The boys are best friends and they delight in tormenting Hank for no apparent reason.  Both are interested in Josie but it is clear she only has eyes for Marcus.  And for Hank, who watches her enjoying the motel’s pool from the tortoise enclosure he’s fashioned on his room’s patio.  Others think Hank has untoward thoughts regarding Josie but he insists that he is just watching out for her.

Marcus tells Josie that there are some disturbing rumors about Hank’s past, including one that he likes to cut up dead bodies.  But when he finally opens up to Josie, she learns that he was once a prison guard at Huntsville, Texas.  Huntsville is the prison where Texas executes prisoners sentenced to death.  It is the most active death chamber in the U.S., with over 500 executions having taken place there since Texas resumed executing prisoners in 1982.  Hank was involved in those executions as the “strap down” man.  He would strap down the condemned on the gurney to ensure they couldn’t move as the cocktail of drugs is injected into their arm.  Hank left after learning that he and the others had executed an innocent man.  It appears that a love triangle is developing between Josie, Hank and Marcus.  But there are things in Josie’s past as well and she has an agenda.

Daeg Faerch, Sophie Turner and Jack Kilmer in ‘Josie’

A film with a running time of under 90 minutes begins with a strike against it.  Shakespeare’s “Since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief…” notwithstanding, there is a fine balance between a movie that runs too long and one that is not long enough.  However, in this instance, the plodding pace of the film’s first half makes this a blessing rather than a fault. By the time things start to get interesting, we are well into the movie’s final act.

Sophie Turner is talented and beautiful and plays an unusual femme fatale well.  Dylan McDermott’s strong performance here is wasted in what is meant to be a thriller that lacks the tension of the genre.  One may sympathize with the tortured life Hank leads because of the horrors of having participated in taking so many lives, but there is little to like about any of the main characters.  In the end, like its title character, Josie may look interesting on the outside, but what lies beneath is less than appealing.

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