Except for the murder and the fact that Linklatter blends interview footage of the actual townspeeps throughout, it's a pretty dull true story that Jack Black is forced to carry by himself. He almost pulls it off, too- affecting a unique outward persona that's way heavy on the quirky charm. But it's a (mostly) one-note show as, aside from knowing what he did and waiting to for it to happen, there wasn't anything to see or even guess at beneath all that propriety. Yup, that Black/Bernie was a stone wall of manner + mannerisms... and this fact pretty well precludes us from relating to any internal tension that we know must be there for him to be anything more than a cutesy sociopath. Which maybe he was. Interesting possibility. Anyhow, dude's impenetrable/effusive personality was the point of the flick to an extent. Apparently nobody in reality who loved him -i.e. everybody- saw through it either. In fact, he was so beloved they though he should get off entirely.
That's nice and all, but who gives a shit? Without that interpersonal knowledge/empathy/fear/etc. these non-action stories are just a series of events that don't really grab you personally, right? I think so. And I think Linklater does, too. Probably. Because the locals appear to be there solely to fill that obvious care-vacuum- and they stole the show in the process... but like a guy in the New Yorker
says, the goofy/touching/odd talks with the loudmouths ultimately worked to subvert the dramatic tension built up by the actors. Too bad.
Ok, enough navel-gazing. Bottom line- decent flick with some fun performances and a couple of great, tense moments. Maclaine was excellent and McConaughey did his best "I'm totally not
Matthew McConaughhey right now, ok?" impression of a local prosecutor, which worked.