The Quarry

on January 14, 2000 by Christine James
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   Its title referring to both a hunted man ("Sliding Doors'" John Lynch) and the rocky desert locale where he's driven to commit a horrible crime, "The Quarry" is a well-made and excellently acted but disappointingly detached drama. The film opens with a 30ish, sweaty, disheveled man running through a field, sobbing desperately to himself, seeking shelter from a sudden storm in a drainpipe--all of which instantly elicits concern and compassion from the audience, regardless of whatever he's done to get himself into this predicament. He soon encounters a motorist (Serge-Henri Valcke) repairing a flat tire, but doesn't attack; he simply asks for food, and the traveler generously grants this request, driving him to a café, buying him two breakfasts and lending him shaving accessories. The mysterious fugitive, in turn, proves his own inclination toward moral fortitude by passing up an opportunity to steal the Good Samaritan's truck and belongings. His benefactor turns out to be a Reverend--a profession held in some disdain by our nameless anti-hero. It's his ironic fate, then, when circumstances lead him to assume the Reverend's identity and take his post in a small South African town.
   Lynch imbues his character with depth and import in the way he intensely performs such mundane acts as taking a steadying swig from a flask and delicately stroking his bedsheet in longing for physical and psychological rest. Supporting characters are similarly textured; everyone from the not-wholly-altruistic Reverend to the racist, egotistical yet sometimes sensitive police captain (Jonny Phillips) to a pair of felonious but deeply bonded brother brothers (Oscar Petersen and Jody Abrahams) is depicted in compellingly complex shades of gray, painting a richly layered portrait of the murkier elements of humanity. But while the enigmatic nature of the protagonist is intriguing, it becomes too distancing, disallowing insight into or connection with what he's going through and why.    Starring John Lynch, Jonny Phillips, Serge-Henri Valcke, Oscar Petersen, Jody Abrahams and Sylvia Esau. Directed, written and produced by Marion Hansel. A First Run release. Drama. German- and English-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 110 min.
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