David Pomes’s Cook County trades in a particular type of backwoods grime that might be dubbed “redneck junkie chic,” a mode that does little to elevate its scatterbrained story about three related men making meth and finding trouble in rural Texas. Bump (Anson Mount) is a grizzled, leathery meth cooker and user, spending his days and nights so whacked out of his gourd that he thinks it a wise idea to give his six-year-old daughter, Deandra (Makenna Fitzsimmons), a hit or two from his pipe. This greatly offends his teenage nephew, Abe (Ryan Donowho), who also occasionally partakes in his uncle’s narcotics but generally proves just a sullen cipher, even once his father, Sonny (Xander Berkeley), shows up clean and sober after a two-year absence trying to make amends. Writer-director Pomes places each of these men front and center at random intervals, creating an encompassing sense of aimlessness, though it’s not a lack of focus that undoes his story so much as consistent pointlessness. Somewhere buried beneath his evocative shots of rustic gas stations, river bends, and convenience stores is Sonny’s attempts to right his wayward course and atone for past sins by saving Abe and Deandra from Bump. Yet that narrative backbone is secondary to the filmmaker’s desire to simply revel in the gnarly always-wasted craziness of Bump, whom Mount embodies with authentically committed (which is not to be confused with engaging) paranoid insanity.
Bump’s ranting and raving with mouth-frothing, eye-rolling-into-his-head volatility quickly feels like the only real reason Cook County exists, since other than Mount’s overacting, Pomes otherwise falls back on the hoariest and lamest of devices. Those include a scene in which, after Abe and Deandra take temporary refuge with a well-off aunt and uncle, the director crosscuts between their fully stocked fridge and nice bathroom with Bump’s squalid accommodations, as well as softly lit dream sequences in which Abe imagines himself coming into contact with an old fat man whose purpose is never lucidly revealed. Unlike AMC’s Breaking Bad, meth here doesn’t reflect current, perilous economic realties; rather, it’s just a low-rent drug used by degenerates whose lives say nothing about anything. That emptiness is ultimately so pervasive that it consumes Pomes’s film, which ultimately resorts to the most tacked-on and desperate narrative gimmick conceivable: introducing a creepy pedophile who wants to pay father-knows-worst Bump for some quality time with Deandra, a development that transparently seeks to deliver some extra climactic drama before the action’s preordained, unearned innocents-escape-redneck-hell happily ever after.