The everyman here is Cliff, a traveling salesman really struggling at home. While on the road, he runs into a colleague from a scheme that went wrong before named Ricky (Kit Harington). The “Game of Thrones” star plays Ricky as one of those dangerous figures that can’t be trusted, but Cliff doesn’t have much of a choice. Ricky convinces him that a traveling salesman is the perfect cover for a drug runner. As Cliff says, he has a “route and a routine.” No one would suspect the suburban schlub of working for a dangerous cartel leader named John, played by Josh Lucas in a chilling role. Before you know it, Cliff and Ricky are running drugs, and, well, Ricky has some plans that might not be in the best interest of Cliff’s bottom line.
Blackhurst directs “Blood for Dust” with grimy momentum. It takes place mostly in barely-lit backrooms, seedy motels, and or under the dashboard light of a car. It’s an admirably stripped-down affair that allows its cast to be its strength, including solid turns from Stephen Dorff and Ethan Suplee. I found myself less interested in the betrayals and the plotting than just spending time with these characters. A “job interview” between Cliff and John is chillingly memorable, for example, but less so for the plot details than the tone it sets. I’ve said the opposite of this so many times that it’s almost becoming boring in my TV reviews, but whereas so much prestige television feels like a feature script stretched to the length of a season, “Blood for Dust” almost seems like it could have worked better as a limited series. Let that dust sink into your skin. And your lungs.
Speaking of dust, there’s a lot of it in the barren nowhere where Stuart Gatt’s “Catching Dust” unfolds. Erin Moriarty (“The Boys”) shines in the central role of this four-character thriller, but everyone here struggles to break out of the forceful mechanics of a script that doesn’t care about the people as much as the inevitable tragedy. The film is built on a country/city dynamic that relies too heavily on that as a dramatic foundation, and I was pushed away from the realism set up by the first act as the melodramatic twists piled up.