Ben Young’s thriller movie Devil’s Peak is based on a book by David Joy and stars a talented cast, including Billy Bob Thornton and Robin Wright. However, poor direction and a disastrous script sabotage any of the suspense or interest that the story could have had, and instead, we’re left with a half-hearted attempt where the majority of the characters are unconvincing. Here’s what happens in the 2023 thriller Devil’s Peak.
Why Did Charlie Kill The Two Men?
The movie opens with a scene from the climax, where a nervous-looking Jacob parks himself behind a car and aims at an oncoming car with a BB gun. We’re then taken back a few days in the story, where we’re met with Charlie McNeely, a drug kingpin who’s apparently feared around the mountainous little town of Devil’s Peak in North Carolina, and we’re also introduced to his son, Jacob. The perpetually sad-faced Jacob works in his father’s garage and, in his free time, visits his girlfriend, Maggie. However, the comically menacing drug-lord Charlie doesn’t want his son to see the stepdaughter of Mayor Bo, a corrupt politician who’s opposed to Charlie’s drug trade. Additionally, there’s Virgie, Jacob’s mother, who’s recently off her drugs, but the spots on her body prove that she has been severely addicted to meth. Jacob visits his mom from time to time but hates that she can’t clean up her act and that she keeps spiraling into her addiction.
Charlie’s girlfriend Josephine parades around his house and acts as a showpiece to the story without adding any real value, except for the fact that she gets a tattoo on her back. This becomes relevant later. When Jacob comes to his father’s house, two of his men are trying to explain a deal gone wrong before Charlie shoos them out of his house. He then follows them out and shoots both men dead. Apparently, the men had been stealing from Charlie, and this was his way of showing that he meant business. He then gave his son the task of killing the one man who’d gotten away, named Robbie. However, Robbie is in a coma, so it’ll be easy for Jacob to finish the job, and his father reminds him that he’s a McNeely and he needs to prove his name by killing the comatose young man.
Why Does Charlie Get Angry At Virgie?
When Sheriff Rogers (Jackie Earle Haley) and his deputy show up at the garage looking into the whereabouts of the two men Charlie killed, Jacob has to lie painfully about not knowing anything. Charlie, however, breezes through, as lying is his second nature. It’s established quickly that the deputy and Jacob don’t see eye-to-eye, although Rogers cares about Charlie’s son. Later, Jacob arrives at the hospital and sneaks past the cops to reach Robbie’s ward, suffocating the man with a pillow until he looks into his reflection in the mirror. He realizes this isn’t him, and killing isn’t something he can do. Jacob visits his mother, who’s recovering, and for the first time in a while, Virgie and Jacob have a heartfelt conversation. Before she goes to sleep, Jacob tells his mother that he won’t escape this cursed mountain without her, but she doesn’t reply to that effect.
Virgie had vowed to her ex-husband Charlie that when she’d been picked up because of unruly behavior, she wouldn’t say anything about his drug business. However, when Mayor Bo meets Charlie and Rogers in a bar, he threatens the drug lord and demands him to cough up every single penny for his silence if he wants to remain outside prison. Even Rogers comes to know about the massive stash Charlie has stored away, while the drug lord seethes in rage at his ex-wife. He shows up at Virgie’s shack and threatens to break in.
How Does Jacob Find Out About His Mother?
Jacob finally decides he wants to leave and take Maggie with him. He demands his cut of the money from Charlie, but he stalls. When Jacob visits Virgie, he’s greeted by the sight of his dead mother, who’s apparently shot herself. A heartbroken Jacob calls the deputy, who chooses to accost Jacob first before being extremely disrespectful about the recently deceased Virgie. He then proceeds to bring up her prostitution, the only way she used to afford drugs for a while, which makes Jacob launch himself at the brutish cop. He’s almost on the verge of strangling the deputy to death when Rogers shows up and separates both men before sending Jacob home. However, Jacob walks up to his sleeping father and holds a gun to his head, convinced that he’s shot her. However, Charlie quickly overpowered his son with words and then smacked him a few times before throwing him out.
What Stand Does Jacob Take Against His Father?
Jacob tried opening the safe at the garage, but to his abject disappointment, it’d been picked clean. Charlie had anticipated such a play and moved the money elsewhere. While lying with Maggie in her bed, suddenly, a brainwave struck Jacob, and he sped towards Josephine’s home, remembering the number she’d gotten tattooed on her back. He sets fire to Charlie’s truck to bait him out and then sneaks in to open the safe in Charlie’s bedroom while the drug lord curses at the damage. He calls Josephine back and suddenly decides to go check inside, only to be proven right; Jacob had stolen everything from the safe and was now fleeing through the forest. Charlie pursued his son in Josephine’s BMW, but Jacob took his stand and shot the oncoming car’s tires out in the scene we’re shown in the very beginning.
The determined son then called Maggie, asking her to pack her things and telling her that he’d gotten the money and was coming to get her. He uncovered his father’s prized Chevrolet and was on his way to her house when, unbeknownst to him, Sheriff Rogers showed up at her house. By the time Jacob reached her, he was stunned to find Bo lying dead, and Maggie was nowhere to be found. Convinced that Charlie had had her kidnapped, he pulled out all the stops to get to his father’s house and was soon being chased by his nemesis, the deputy. Rogers showed up at Charlie’s place and, without much ado, shot him in the stomach before marching inside, shotgun in hand. There, he found Josephine with her back to the wall and killed her in one swift blow.
Does Jacob Escape His Drug-Kingpin Father?
By then, Jacob had shown up, as had the deputy, and the latter was demanding Jacob come out with his hands raised. Rogers observed the situation for a second before blowing a hole in the deputy’s stomach and then pointing the gun at Jacob. As he slowly realized who was behind the kidnapping of Maggie, he started asking where Rogers had kept her, while the Sheriff kept asking for the money. With Jacob moments away from being shot, Charlie blew the Sheriff’s face off and then asked his son to check the cop’s trunk. Inside was Maggie, terrified but finally relieved to see Jacob. However, still unable to forget his mother’s death, Jacob took the revolver and marched up to his father, and pointed the gun at his face as Maggie screamed inaudibly, asking him not to do it. Finally, though, Jacob couldn’t bring himself to kill anyone, least of all his father. He returned to the car and drove away with Maggie, leaving the accursed Devil’s Peak for good. During Devil’s Peak‘s ending, there was a gunshot from the porch where Charlie was lying, implying he’d taken his own life.
What could’ve been a nail-biting thriller about a son deciding to stand up to his father’s immoral ways and, ultimately, his coming of age to the cruelty of the world was watered down to a very basic plot that quickly lost the viewers’ attention. Despite having such talented actors on the cast, director Ben Young didn’t know how to flesh out any of the characters, which is why everyone remains a single-dimensional character. There’s no character development in Devil’s Peak, nor is there any time spent developing the major characters of Jacob and Charlie. We keep hearing how menacing Charlie is, but we scarcely see evidence of the same. The only interesting part in the movie’s entirety is probably the ending, but that’s mainly due to Jackie Earle Haley’s expressions and ability to deliver lines with an intensity most of the cast misses out on. Overall, Devil’s Peak, if done better, could’ve won accolades, but instead, it had trouble finding seats to fill in the theaters it ran in.