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Brigham City (2001)

    Q :    Where did you get the idea for the movie?

    A :    I was passing by a gazebo in a small park here in Mapleton on my way out of town, heading to Los Angeles to prepare the DVD version
            of God's Army. I thought, 'that's a cool looking gazebo; what kind of movie could you do with that as a center piece?' Then I started
            driving, and by the time I got to Victorville, California the story had been created.
            -INTERVIEW : with Richard Dutcher (Maurine Proctor, Meridian Magazine)

Wes Clayton (Richard Dutcher) makes for an odd kind of sheriff.  He's a tad portly, with one knee in a full brace.  He's not much of a shot with a handgun and has never fired at a living thing since a boyhood trauma while out hunting.  He's soft-spoken and somewhat withdrawn since the car accident that killed his wife and son and left him gimpy.  And he's a Mormon bishop.  Of course, Brigham City isn't your typical police beat.  It's a place where folks leave their doors unlocked at night and where there's never been a murder.  Or, there had never been a murder, until Clayton and his over-eager young deputy, Terry, find the body of a young California woman who was driving through town before someone crushed her skull.

Where Terry sees an exciting opportunity to investigate a real crime for once, Clayton only hopes to protect his town from being affected by this contamination from the outside world, and his initial efforts are mostly directed towards hushing up the murder and getting the FBI to handle the case.  But he recognizes the risk to the community that this intrusion of evil poses :

    What we got here is a little paradise. And nothing attracts a serpent like a paradise.

And, as other murders are committed, it becomes obvious that the serpent has indeed settled in Brigham City.  In the scene that gave director Richard Dutcher the idea for the film, the corpse of one victim, a beauty queen, is found under the lovely white gazebo in the town square. Clayton asks Terry : "You had enough of the real world yet?"  But must confront the possibility that his own failure to reckon with the possibility of such evil may have contributed to the killer's cause.

Mr. Dutcher gives a very quiet, soulful performance as a man who's frightened of the violence of the outside world and within his own heart.  His devotion to his community and his friends and neighbors leads him to strain constitutional bounds in ways that are troubling but understandable, just as his confrontation with evil forces him to strain the bounds of his own morality, in ways that trouble him but are understandable to us and to the characters around him.  There's a closing scene based around the communion that is one of the most affecting you'll ever see and while it, and much else here, is sort of religious propaganda, it is quite effective as drama too.

Make no mistake about it, this is a proselytizing film and it may not appeal to all tastes.  But it is a fascinating glimpse into Mormon culture, a fine though gimmicky mystery/thriller, and a thoughtful and thought-provoking meditation on the persistence of evil.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

    -FILMOGRAPHY :  Richard Dutcher (Internet Movie Database)
    -INTERVIEW : Brigham City-The Murder Mystery : Why God's Army director Richard Dutcher did a "who dunnit" (Maurine Proctor, Meridian Magazine)
    -INTERVIEW : With 'Brigham City' on DVD and 'The Prophet' On Deck, Dutcher Looks at LDS Cinema Boom (SEAN P. MEANS, April 21, 2002, Salt Lake Tribune)
    -ARTICLE : 'Brigham City' Director Not Afraid of PG-13 Rating (Sean P. Means, 4 April 2001 , Salt Lake Tribune)
    -PROFILE : Richard Dutcher: film auteur (LDS Films)
    -ARTICLE :  From Missionaries to Murder: Richard Dutcher shoots Brigham City (Jonathan S. Walker, 7/07/01, Meridien Magazine)
    -Brigham City Official Website
    -OFFICIAL WEBSITE : God's Army
    -INFO : Brigham City (
    -INFO : God's Army (2000) (
    -REVIEWS : Brigham City (MetaCritic)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (LAWRENCE VAN GELDER, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Bill Muller, Arizona Republic)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Larry Ratliff, San Antonio Express-News)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Wade Major, Box Office)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Gregory Avery, Nitrate Online)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Jill R. Cresap, Las Vegas Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Nathan Shumate, Cold Fusion)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Sterling D. Allan, Greater Things)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Richard von Busack, Metro Active)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Laura DeBrizzi, Entertainment Today)
    -REVIEW : of Brigham City (Ken James, Christian Spotlight on the Movies)
    -REVIEW : of God's Army (LAWRENCE VAN GELDER, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of God's Army (Jonathan S. Walker, Meridian Magazine)
    -REVIEW : of God's Army (Christianity Today)
    -REVIEW : of God's Army  (Eugene England, BeliefNet)
    -REVIEW : of God's Army (E. Benjamin Kelsey)
    -REVIEW : of God's Army (James Delmont, Journal of Film & Religion)