By Don Simpson | December 1, 2010
Director: Josh Sternfeld
Writer(s): Josh Sternfeld
Starring: Nick Stahl, Rachel Nichols, Kellan Lutz
Hard times have fallen upon Caswell. Industry has abandoned this small white trash town and the economy has for all intents and purposes grinded to a halt. The men of Caswell therefore must travel to surrounding towns for construction jobs and other temporary employment. There is still a glimmer of hope for Caswell; a manufacturer wants to build a new facility which promises to deliver hundreds of new jobs to the town. One hurdle remains, the highly bureaucratic Meskada County government must approve the new development.
Meanwhile, two men from Caswell — Eddie (Kellan Lutz) and Shane (Jonathan Tucker) — venture to the peaceful and prosperous town of Hilliard to rob some affluent people. During one such robbery, they are surprised by the presence of a young boy; Eddie delivers a fatal blow to the boy’s head and Eddie and Shane scurry back to Caswell to hide.
Hilliard cop Noah Cordin (Nick Stahl) is assigned to cover the case. One clue leads Noah and Meskada County detective Leslie Spencer (Rachel Nichols) — his partner on this case — to Caswell, which just so happens to be Noah’s hometown that he abandoned years ago when he left for college. Upon their arrival, Noah attempts to question the many travelling workers of Caswell in the hope to discover more leads, but the people of Caswell perceive Noah and Leslie’s presence in their poor town as harassment by the rich. It also does not help matters that the mother (Laura Benanti) of the murdered boy works for the Meskada County government and she is able enact her own revenge on Caswell by making the approval process for their new business venture all that more tedious and difficult.
The sophomore effort from writer-director Josh Sternfeld (Winter Solstice), Meskada exemplifies the age-old battle of white trash versus rich folks, or people versus “the man” (county government). This set-up would work a little better if Hilliard did not appear so similar to Caswell. (Maybe if Hilliard was a bit more urban or outwardly wealthy?) With a few minor changes, Meskada could be an apt metaphor for the current political tug-o-war between Obama’s “urban intellectuals” and Palin’s Tea Party, but in its current state it appears to be a battle between neighboring working class and middle class towns.
Meskada is all about perceptions. Noah is perceived as a bad guy in Caswell because he left town to go to college, then he moved straight to Hilliard where he found a job and started a family. Leslie is also perceived to be bad because she represents the County Sheriff’s office. The Meskada County government is perceived to be evil because they are out of touch with the struggling blue collar population of Caswell, and they care more about their thick as molasses bureaucracy (budget, zoning and environmental board meetings) than the employment prospects and economic benefits of a new business opening in Caswell. The people of Caswell — alcoholics who live in double-wide trailer homes and control crime by way of lynch mobs — are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any more!
It is worth noting that Shane steals from rich people — kind of like Robin Hood — in order to raise the necessary money for his nephew’s (Charlie Tahan) ear surgery. (We can only assume that a majority of the population of Caswell is uninsured.) Meskada seems to whine a lot about government bureaucracy and “the man,” but if there was a nationalized (“socialized”) health care system then maybe Shane and Eddie would not have to steal from the rich.