Asher Levin’s Dig is a film about a violent man in search of redemption. It is a well-trodden path.
You would be forgiven for confusing 2022’s Dig for The Dig (2021), The Dig (2017), Dig (2015), or even Dig! (2004); and its interchangeable title is perhaps premonitory. But before we get into it, let’s avoid one further point of confusion: Thomas Jane stars as Scott Brennan; his daughter is portrayed by his real-life daughter, Harlow Jane, and her onscreen name happens to be Jane Brennan. Just so we’re clear!
As we’ve established, Dig follows Thomas Jane as Scott, a New Mexican demolition contractor, after his wife is murdered in an act of random violence incited by his road rage.
The event leaves his daughter partially deaf from a close-range gunshot, and after a hurried depiction of all this we pick up with them a year later.
The daughter is now in behavioral therapy and her hearing has not yet returned, though Scott believes a $30,000 surgery might help her recover. Jane resents her dad for the death of her mother, and the two are at silent odds with one another, communicating through a mix of sign language, handwriting, and Jane’s newfound lip-reading.
Determined to mend their relationship, Scott plans to take Jane on a fishing trip for the weekend when he is propositioned by the mysterious Victor (Emile Hirsch), with an unusual demolition job that would pay the convenient sum of $30,000.
Unwilling to leave Jane behind, Scott brings his daughter out to the house he’s supposed to strip, where they are mugged and overpowered by Victor and his partner Lola (Liana Liberato). The two require Brennan’s skills for drilling through a concrete patio behind the house and unearthing whatever lies beneath – loot or bodies, only time will tell. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse hostage situation, as the relationships and backstories of father, daughter and their attackers all unravel.
On some basic, formal levels, Dig doesn’t quite work. Certain sequences are oddly rushed, the writing is flat, and the audio uncompressed, leaving snatches of dialogue inaudible and the soundtrack screamingly loud. Don’t expect any new takes here; there’s no genre spin or character twist to justify the rehash. This is a meat and potatoes thriller with no pretension of nuance.
That said, there is some enjoyment to be found in the mix. A dad and his deaf daughter is a decent setup for a hostage flick and has its fun quirks, e.g. when the daughter can lip-read the attackers’ whispered conversations, or the two can communicate silently via sign language. Character dynamics between the four are also passable, with some engaging twists and turns.
The overwhelming highlight of Dig is its cast.
Thomas Jane, though he had some early highbrow turns with Boogie Nights (1997) and The Thin Red Line (1998), these days makes a habit of illuminating whatever popcorn fare and throwaway he finds himself in. Dig is no exception. He hams it up with the best, makes drivel earnest, and is a joy to watch. A real magician! Seeing him perform alongside his daughter is an added plus.
Similarly, Emile Hirsch shows that he can spin lead to gold, or at least pyrite. Though he’s been excommunicated from the A-list for some unseemly extracurricular activities, Hirsch effortlessly reminds why he once frequented blockbusters and Oscar fare alike. In Dig he is genuinely scary, with some pathos to boot. When Hirsch and Thomas Jane are alone in a room, Dig, in fact, shines.
Hirsch’s partner, played by Liberato, also pulls her weight, making their scenes together memorable. And Harlow Jane, though mute for most of the film, does just about everything required of her. All told, the lively cast and a solid premise make good where the writing and film-craft aren’t up to the task.
Dig won’t surprise; it won’t elate or transform. You can look at the poster and know what you’re getting. If you’re in the market, you could do worse.
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Produced by Robert Dean, Daniel Cummings,
Courtney Lauren Penn
Written by Banipal and Benhur Ablakhad
Directed by K. Asher Levin
Starring Thomas Jane, Harlow Jane,
Emile Hirsch, Liana Liberato