Inherit the Viper

  • 30 May - 05 Jun, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

There's no doubt that the current opioid crisis represents a national calamity of devastating proportions. It's inevitable, then, that the situation has become rife for dramatisation, and you can feel the seriousness behind the new crime drama representing the feature debuts of director Anthony Jerjen and screenwriter Andrew Crabtree. Unfortunately, for all its admirable intentions and the terrific performances by its talented ensemble, Inherit the Viper fails to have any genuine impact. Neither weighty enough to satisfyingly explore its themes nor sufficiently suspenseful to work as a straightforward thriller, the film proves dramatically inert.

Set in the sort of all-too-common small Ohio town that has become afflicted by economic distress and widespread addiction, the story revolves around the Conley clan, composed of siblings Kip (Josh Hartnett), Josie (Margarita Levieva) and Boots (Owen Teague). Their late father, a career criminal, has bestowed to them an ominous legacy.

Josie and Kip have a thriving business in dealing painkillers to the physically and emotionally ailing members of their community. Josie has clearly developed a casual indifference to the suffering caused by their product, as evidenced by her callous reaction to coming upon the lifeless body of one her customers who's suffered an overdose in a tavern bathroom; she makes sure to retrieve the dead woman's drugs so she can resell them. Kip, a military veteran whose girlfriend is newly pregnant, has begun to suffer a crisis of conscience and wants to go straight, even while their younger brother, Boots, proves eager to enter the family business.

Kip's efforts to go straight, and Boots' ill-considered attempt to set up an illicit deal for himself form the heart of the story. Despite the promising setup, however, the film never achieves any narrative momentum; even its frequent violent episodes barely make an impression.

It's a shame, because the elements are there, including such colourful supporting characters as a shady bar owner, entertainingly played by Bruce Dern. Hartnett does his best work in years as the emotionally conflicted Kip; Levieva is chilling in her portrayal of the hard-boiled Josie and Teague brings a hot-wire intensity to the criminally ambitious Boots, who gets in far over his head. But their laudable efforts are not enough to prevent Inherit the Viper from being as numbing as the drugs the Conley family peddles.

– Compilation