Lake City is the kind of genre mash-up that manages to do everything mostly wrong. As very limited release, low budget films go, the cast is fairly noteworthy. Sissy Spacek stars and the supporting players include Rebecca Romijn, Keith Carradine, and musician Dave Matthews. However, on the downside, the mix of low-key character drama and thriller elements is handled awkwardly.
Billy (Troy Garity) arrives in his old hometown to seek the help of his mother Maggie (Spacek). Not only is Billy on the run from a drug dealer named Red (Matthews), he has an eight-year-old boy, Clayton, in tow. There is some emotional baggage for Billy and his mom to sort through, as Billy's brother died young and Maggie blames herself for it. In young Clayton, Maggie sees an opportunity to wash away some of the pain of losing a child by caring for Clayton as her own. Clayton turns out to be Billy's son (despite the father's meager attempts at denying it initially). It was the boy's deceased mother who was mixed up in drugs and as a result, Billy owes Red a considerable amount of money.
Without any of the drug dealer entanglements, Lake City might have stood a chance as a small town, broken family drama. Spacek, though not challenged by this role, does her customarily reliable job as a mother who can't move past her grief. The movie works best as Maggie and her son try to rebuild their relationship and decide how to provide a stable environment for Clayton. Garity makes little impression as Billy, but to be fair, the role asks him to play the hollowed-out shell of a man. The desperation of a drifter is subtly conveyed. Romijn, as a local cop and old friend of Billy's, is even less distinctive — though her character turns out to be pivotal in the end. It's the thriller aspect of the movie that fails to engage or convince the audience in any way. Matthews is out of his depth as a menacing crook and as the movie stumbles towards its conclusion, it was disappointing to even see him turn up again.
One genuine bright spot is Colin Ford, the young man who plays Clayton. He turns in a sturdy performance, eliciting sympathy as a child stuck in an unfair and undeserved predicament. Unfortunately that isn't enough to recommend devoting ninety-two minutes to Lake City.
Co-directors Perry Moore and Hunter Hill did not provide a commentary for the DVD, which is a shame. I was curious to know how financing and reputable stars were secured for this dismal exercise in tedium. Even if they had however it wouldn't be enough to recommend the disc.