It used to be heroin. Now it’s prescription opioids that inspire ho-hum movies about drug dealers on a downhill spiral. So far, the results are less than illuminating and hardly original. In a bargain-basement bomb called Inherit the Viper, three siblings survive one gruesome moment after another without any of them adding up to anything significant or life-affirming. Despite a running time of only 85 minutes, it feels like days of mean-spirited self-indulgence.
In a rural butt end of Alabama, the Conleys are feel-good felons who make a living selling oxycodone. After a deal that goes wrong, older brother Kip (Josh Hartnett) wants to retire, but sister Josie (Margarita Levieva) and kid brother Boots (Owen Teague) have grown fond of a family dynamic that includes crime, violence and the daily danger of death. Josie is one tough cookie who keeps things going. “We do what we gotta do to get by—we’re no different from anybody else,” she says when Kip insists on going straight. “When it’s time to quit, we quit. No questions asked,” he demands. “Of course,” she counters—”we’re all in it together.” But of course when the time comes, so does disaster. The film heads straight for a brick wall.
INHERIT THE VIPER ★
In yet another film that emphasizes the ugliness, immorality, poverty and crime of an America characterized by overdoses, repellent sex and Baptist churches, there’s no one to root for or care about. When Josie isn’t littering the landscape with corpses, she’s sleeping with the sheriff. People enter and start talking in any given scene with no attempt at reference, character development or audience preparation. The bloodshed is well staged, but the acting is so uniformly monotonous you can only wonder what Bruce Dern is doing in a bit part as a bar owner who compares the Conleys’ inevitable downfall to the slow, agonizing poisoning of a friend who died from the venom of a snake bite. Hence the title. The rest of Inherit the Viper, a B-movie filmed in Appalachia by Anthony Jerjen from a paralyzing script by Andrew Crabtree, can best be described as dead on arrival.