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Richard Dutcher's film "Brigham City"
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Review of "Brigham City"

By: Derek McCaw
Date: 2001
Source: Fanboy Planet

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
- Matthew 10:16

For those who haven't read the New Testament in a while, writer/director Richard Dutcher thoughtfully provides a Sunday School scene to teach us the above scripture. His Sheriff Wes Clayton (played by Dutcher) would surely do well to remember it, struggling to protect his small Utah town in the dual role of lawman and Bishop of his church ward. But as his deputy Terry (Matthew A. Brown) reminds him, you can't keep the world out, not even in Brigham City.

The lesson hits home fairly quickly, as Wes and Terry, Brigham's only police, drive by a red sports car abandoned in a field. As Wes approaches it, he sees bloodstains on the driver's seat, and finds a body in a nearby barn. Murder has come to Brigham.

If Wes has his way, the FBI will come in, take the body away, and conduct their investigation in Salt Lake City. The citizens of Brigham don't need to know about the evil that brushed against them. Unfortunately, shortly afterward the town beauty queen is found dead under the gazebo at the heart of the town.

As the former sheriff Stu (Wilford Brimley) dryly observes, "nothing attracts a serpent like paradise." One of the investigating FBI agents, Meredith (Tayva Patch), puts it more bluntly, "Congratulations, Sheriff. You have a serial killer."

Doing triple duty in the film, Dutcher has constructed a tight thriller without compromising his Mormon heritage. Yes, Brigham City is that rarity: a film about faith that actually puts its story first, managing to entertain as much as provoke thought.

Simply but expertly shot, the film only drags a little bit before the murders are discovered. Dutcher has a lot to explain to non-Mormon audiences about Church business, and does so through sometimes awkward exposition. But this is no conversion tactic; you really do need to know about it in order to understand why the people in the town act the way they do, all of it leading to an emotional pay-off that knows no particular religion.

As a thriller, the film works better than most of those turned out by the big studios this year. Certainly (and perhaps surprisingly) it treats murder more honestly and bloodily than last month's Domestic Disturbance. Both got a PG-13, but the Travolta thriller substituted swearing for clever dialogue, and so had to sacrifice blood.

Dutcher does neither. Once past the exposition, his characters come alive, speaking in the rhythms of real people, rarely coming out and saying what they mean. It's all too rare that a writer respects the audience enough to let them put the pieces together. And the pieces do fit, even if you don't realize you saw them until it's all over. He even goes so far as to make the suspects all plausible, formed from the suspicions of the characters themselves instead of slapping them with the red herring label.

Though few have any "Hollywood" experience, the ensemble fleshes out the film with a surprising naturalness. Perhaps the only recognizable name, Brimley stands out as the retired sheriff who doesn't know what to do with himself if he doesn't have a badge. Without being clownish, his easy repartee with Wes' secretary Peg (Carrie Morgan) provides most of the film's scant comic relief. The weakest actor, in fact, may be Dutcher himself, but then, he has also written himself as a man who tries to keep out even his own emotions. When Wes breaks, Dutcher comes through.

Brigham City will put you through an emotional wringer, whether you have faith in God or not. And that's not a bad thing. Taut, intelligent, and just plain entertaining, this little film demands attention.

It has opened haphazardly across the United States. In the area of the Fanboy Planet office, it opens December 7 at the Camera 3 Cinemas in San Jose. You can also check the film's website to see if it's opening near you. It may sneak in under a flurry of bigger-budgeted pictures, but this one will not leave you feeling empty.

What's It Worth? $8

Brigham is the place to be...

By: Bryce
Source: Bryce's Movie Domain (website)

Now some may ask, is this about the REAL Brigham City in Utah. No, it isn't. This is a ficitional movie. Even though the two cities have things in common, these are two separate places. Now, I just saw this movie just about 3 hours ago and it is still fresh in my mind. I absolutely loved it. Richard Dutcher has outdone himself from the great missionary movie, God's Army, which wasn't an easy task.

This is the story of a small-town called Brigham. Brigham, which is just celebrating their 138th birthday is still very innocent. No murders and hardly any crime. A paradise. Richard Dutcher, who plays Sherriff-Bishop Wes Clayton and also directed, produced, and wrote the script, while driving around with his assistant Terry, Matthew Brown (also played Elder Allen in God's Army), has discovered a California woman's dead body. The town's first murder. Not wanting to have anything to do with it, Wes turns it over to the FBI. Unfortuneately, another murder is discovered, this time it's Miss Brigham. By this they know that the murderer is a resident of the town. They have no clues about who it is, everyone's a suspect.

As I said earlier, this is one heck of a movie. Dutcher has outdone himself big time. This is a tense, edge-of-seat, thrill ride that I hope nobody misses. I walked out of the theater awe-struck. I absolutely loved this movie. It has a good message that is very important to todas society. I highly recommend this to people ages 12- as old as can possibly get. (The reason I say 12 is because the movie is a bit violent and it could scare younger kids.) GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

**** [out of 4]

Brigham City rated PG-13 for violence, a few uses of profanity, and gore.

Brigham City, The Movie
("Life in a Small Town" column)

By: Ron Johnston
Source: Morgan Valley Weekly

Did I like Brigham City? I loved it! I was very, very impressed by the wonderful acting, great film work, and Mr. Dutcher allowed the movie to move along without overbearing music. In fact, he used silence to further the film. Mr. Dutcher, you did some good, again!

I usually don't write an article reviewing a movie, but I saw one this week that has to be talked about. The movie: Brigham City. This movie could have been titled, "Life in a Small Town," like my column. We, as members of this community, are much like the people represented in this great movie. Many people in the valley know each other's names; many are related to each other, and we know the leaders of the community, such as the mayor and the sheriff.

Also, a comparison of Morgan and the town represented in Brigham City: Most of the community are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And if you are not a member, hopefully you are welcomed in the community and even though you may not be a member, the culture is usually still part of your life. The first spoken words in the movie show us that this movie is just like the conversations many of us have in our lives. As the sheriff walks out to his vehicle, the girl across the street talks to the bishop, who is also the Sheriff, about how her brother is doing on his mission.

A warning about the movie: If you are looking for a movie on the level of Johnny Lingo or Man's Search for Happiness, this is not the one to go see. The movie is rated PG13. Take that warning to heart. It is not for young kids. The movie is a murder mystery, a very good murder mystery and shows the effect of such a terrible crime on a small town.

In Brigham City we see a number of religious scenes such as a baptism, a sacrament meeting and prayers asking for direction in their lives. Mormonism openly shown in a movie is a new idea in the world of film. Religion has been used as a main part of the story. Think back to "The Jazz Singer" covering the Jewish faith. Just a few years back there was "Sister Act," where the majority of the movie was filmed in a convent and the Catholic Church. It was a movie about nuns! It was a fun movie and the religious connections didn't hurt the film one bit.

It is strange to sit in a movie and watch the people in the movie acting like we do in Utah, than someone in the areas usually covered by Hollywood.

The movie is written and directed by Richard Dutcher. In fact, he plays the sheriff and bishop in the movie. He had great success with the first of what I hope will be a long list of Mormon cinema, God's Army. I also enjoyed that movie. Nearly every scene of that movie brought back memories to me about my mission that I served near Los Angeles, where the movie took place.

Did I like Brigham City? I loved it! I was very, very impressed by the wonderful acting, great film work, and Mr. Dutcher allowed the movie to move along without overbearing music. In fact, he used silence to further the film. Mr. Dutcher, you did some good, again!

Watch for more Mormon Cinema coming out soon. "The Other Side of Heaven" is a feature film based on the actual experiences of John H. Groberg, Mormon missionary who served in Tonga, who is now in the First Quorum of the Seventy. The film is based on his memoirs, In the Eye of the Storm from (Deseret Book). The movie will be out in the summer. LDS member, Jerry Molen, produces the movie. He received an Academy Award as the producer for the Best Picture winner, "Schindler's List."

After you see Brigham City, e-mail or call me and tell me what you thought about it. Remember the PG13 rating!

For more info on the net see: The official Brigham City site: Also the site for the upcoming movie, The Other Side of Heaven: Also check out one of my web site's Famous Mormons in TV and Movies:

dOc DVD Review: Brigham City

By: Rich Rosell
Date: 11 June 2002

Style grade: A-
Substance grade: B+
Image transfer grade: B-
Audio transfer grade: B+
Extras grade: B+

Brigham City is the second Mormon-themed independent release from writer/director/actor Richard Dutcher, coming on the heels of his critically successful God's Army, a film about the personal and emotional struggles of a young Utah missionary. What makes this latest work, a far more mainstream accessible film to be sure, so unusual is that it is about a serial killer, and the impact that the killings have on a small Mormon town. It is admittedly a weird juxtaposition to see religion and murder intertwined so tightly, especially when presented by such a devoutly religious director, and I should probably allay any concerns that this is Dutcher's attempt to convert the masses to Mormonism. Instead, he has concocted a rather engaging script where it just so happens that the Mormon religion and faith are pivotal in both the story and in the lives of the characters.

Wes Clayton (Dutcher) is a guy who literally wears two hats, serving as the local Mormon leader, or bishop, as well as the sheriff for the small, idyllic town of Brigham City, Utah. In fact, most of the townsfolk just call him Bishop, which prompts one character to lament, "There's 17 bishops in this town, and only one sheriff. It would simplify things if they'd just call him 'Sheriff.'" When a series of brutal murders—the work of a roving serial killer with a thing against pretty young women—occur within the city limits, Wes finds himself straddling the boundaries of the law, as well as that of his faith. He's a humanly flawed man, and the story unfolds with an odd mixture of tenderness and paranoia that eventually envelops the entire town.

Dutcher looks the part of a small-town sheriff here, and his low key but stern characterization of Wes is played with a believable down-to-earth ease that befits the role well. I'm always hesitant of writer/director who just happens to think he's the best to take the lead role, but Dutcher's portrayal is actually quite good. The slightly pot-bellied Wes, hampered by an ungainly limp, is far from being a super cop, and in fact he is more than willing to turn over control of the case to the investigating FBI agents, led by the gently inquisitive Meredith (Tavya Patch), much to the chagrin of his young deputy, played by Matthew A. Brown. Meredith represents the non-Mormon viewpoint, watching the goings on of the town with an outsider's wary and sometimes bemused eye. Brigham City is populated with a solid cast, full of mostly new faces, especially Carrie Morgan who is wonderfully caustic (or at least as caustic as a Mormon can be) as Peg, the sheriff's dispatcher.

For a film with such a largely unknown ensemble group of players, it was great to see a familiar face like Wilford Brimley blend in effortlessly and toss out another of his patented gruff-but-loveable performances as Stu, the retired sheriff who just can't stay out of the office; in my estimation there really isn't anyone who can spout curmudgeonly phrases better or more naturally than him.

The story here is about much more than a series of murders, but Dutcher's Brigham City will likely be marketed as a simple serial killer film—that helps to sell discs, no doubt—but it's clear that his intent was to present a profoundly more spiritual experience for viewers, more in line with his own religious beliefs. Sure, some of the dramatic plot points about faxing scanned fingerprints are a bit gimmicky, but as a simple whodunit it is wholly entertaining. Characters are just as likely to form an impromptu prayer circle as they are to do anything, but even this type of preaching is kept well within the believable and natural bounds of the characters, and Dutcher deftly avoids overtly sermonizing. He has assembled a strong supporting cast of actors, and all involved deliver the message loud and clear.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer of Brigham City, which is largely blemish free, has a significant amount of shimmer and haloing. There is a scene where Meredith, the FBI agent, is reading at the local church, and the pattern on her dress almost looks animated. Colors, on the other hand, are bright, and image detail is generally pretty solid.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: If you have a choice, opt for the 5.1 over the 2.0 track here. So many times I've come across 5.1 and 2.0 tracks on the same disc that are virtually interchangeable, but on this disc there is a substantial difference. In 5.1, the dialogue is dramatically cleaner, as is the score. Rear channel cues are minimal, but when used fill out the soundstage nicely. The 2.0 comes across rather one-dimensional in comparison.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature commentary by Richard Dutcher
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only real extra of merit here is a full-length, scene-specific commentary from director/writer/star Richard Dutcher. He chats pretty much non-stop, which is a good thing, and he kindly refrains from simply reiterating what we're seeing on the screen. His comments cover a lot of production and set issues, as well as the origins and development of the script. Dutcher tosses out a few humorous anecdotes, but the general tone is fairly serious, and one that I found to be quite easy to listen to.

A theatrical trailer, bios/filmographies, 16 chapters, and subtitles (English, Spanish) and a $4 discount coupon for the soundtrack round out the supplementals.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

This is a very different type of mystery thriller, one with distinct religious overtones, from God's Army director Richard Dutcher. Even with a moderately tame PG-13 rating, Dutcher still manages to deliver tension, suspense and oddly enough, a genuinely moving story of redemption and faith in a small Mormon town. This disc also includes Dutcher's generally informative, full-length commentary track, to boot.


'Brigham City' catches the killer

By: Leslie Blodgett
Date: 20 June 2002
Source: Ke Alaka'i (BYU-Hawaii newspaper)

Small town murder is not a stranger to box-office hits like "Scream" and "Fargo." Introduce the easygoing, likeable characters who all seem to form a family together; then start killing them off. Pretty soon you've got yourself a mystery to solve- usually by a town sheriff, who knows everyone by their first name.

This plot has also caught on in TV series such as "The X-files" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

So, when Richard Dutcher (creator of "God's Army") brought the same idea to a town populated by Latter-day Saints, the result was a movie that combined good old-fashioned "whodunnit" mystery, with the introduction of an LDS culture.

This approach showed how a Mormon culture in a small town functions.

"Brigham City" takes place in the town of the same name, located in northern Utah.

Dutcher plays the sheriff, who also happens to be a bishop. He has to deal with situations that draw a line between his separate roles of law enforcer and religious leader.

Tayva Patch plays an FBI agent investigating the murders that have disrupted the quiet, family-oriented lifestyle in Brigham City, where everyone knows everyone else.

New to the Mormon culture, the FBI agent learns a lot about how these members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operate.

As the creator of these movies, Dutcher has made increasing contributions to the knowledge and recognition of the Church, which finds itself accurately portrayed on the big screen. (Again in this year's earlier release of "Singles Ward.")

REVIEW of "Brigham City"

By: Adam J. Hakari
Date: 2002
Source: The Snack Bar: Movie Reviews (website)

** 1/2 [2 1/2 stars out of 4]

The good news: Richard Dutcher's second film, Brigham City, is an improvement over his first, God's Army. The bad news: he's managed to find more subtle ways of turning a good story into a commercial for Mormonism.

Wes Clayton (Dutcher, wearing one of three hats for this film) is the sheriff of the small Utah town of Brigham. He's also a bishop in the local Mormon church, which has him looked up to as both religious leader and keeper of the peace. But as Brigham is a nice, quiet little town where no one locks their doors, there's hardly any need for law enforcement -- that is, until a shocking discovery shakes Brigham big-time. It all starts when Wes finds an out-of-state car by an abandoned building... along with a woman's body close by. Not wanting an outbreak of fear and panic amongst the townspeople, Wes leaves this case up to the FBI agents (Tayva Path and Jeff Johnson) who come into town and keeps the situation tightly wrapped. His privacy doesn't last long; hardly a day passes when a local girl is found murdered, leaving Wes to face the harsh reality of things: there's a serial killer in Brigham, and it very well may be one of their own that's behind the brutal killings.


By: the Judd brothers
Date: 7/08/02

Brigham City (2001) (directed by Richard Dutcher)

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.


Distributing Utah-based Films and Music is a No-brainer

By: Glen Warchol
Date: 23 July 2002
Source: Salt Lake Tribune

Jeff Simpson, president of the small but flourishing film and music distributor Excel, knows the best way to cross over to a broad audience is to first serve -- extremely well -- a niche audience.

Excel, which began its foray into film distribution in 2000, found broad audience appeal for its independent films Brigham City and God's Army that were about, and targeted to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints audience.

"There's a misconception that to cross over with a niche film, you have to gener-ify it," says Simpson, speaking from his offices in the International Center a few miles west of downtown Salt Lake City. "The truth is, a story has to go even deeper into a culture to make in universal."

It's a philosophy that seems to be working for Excel.

The entertainment weekly Variety recently rated Excel among the nation's top 10 limited-release -- or "niche" -- film distributors. Niche distributors deal in films playing in less than 600 markets nationwide.

Miramax topped the list with nearly 34 percent of the niche market. But eighth on the list -- just behind Sony Classics and ahead of Fine Line -- was Simpson's Excel, which had grossed $8 million on its films.

The company entered the market two years ago with the God's Army, which followed the lives of a group of LDS missionaries. Excel followed with an even bigger crossover success in the murder mystery Brigham City.

Excel also found a nationwide audience for The Other Side of Heaven which has grossed over $4.4 million.

Excel's newest crossover bid is a love story, Charly, opening this month in Utah and southeastern Idaho. Based on the novel by Jack Weyland, non-Mormon free spirit Charly collides with Sam, a self-satisfied, goal-setting believer. Cultural differences and family attitudes threatened to destroy their love.

It's definitely an LDS niche film, but if you take the word "Mormon" out of a script like Charly, replace it with "Jewish," "Catholic," "Italian" or even "Greek" -- you've got standard Hollywood fare -- not a limited-release cultural-ethnic film. Moonstruck (Italian Catholics), Crossing Delancy (New York Jews), or My Big Fat Greek Wedding were never considered niche films.

But it is only recently that the human condition has been examined through the eyes of Mormon filmmakers.

"LDS people see our films as a mirror," Simpson says of his products. "But they are also a window into the LDS culture."

Perhaps another sign of crossover success is criticism from the originating niche group itself. Excel has gotten complaints for opening the LDS window a little too wide. For instance, some Mormons squirmed at scenes of the church's sacraments being shown in Brigham City.

"The LDS culture is still nervous about how it is portrayed to the outside world," Simpson says. "There have been so many unfair caricatures over the years."

But he says the artists at Excel understand their market and as for crossover, "The best is yet to come."

"The real limitation is: How good are we at making movies and writing stories?" Simpson says. "They can have all the attributes of the religion, but they have to be stories well told. The passion of the story is where your limits lie."

Entertainment Today REVIEW:
Brigham City

By: Laura DeBrizzi
Source: Entertainment Today (magazine)

Whereas The Silence of the Lambs burned its film's celluloid with the psychological warfare of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Brigham City gorges itself with the uncommon, and many would argue, more controversial, biblical scripture. This is not to say that the latter serial killer flick lacks the capability to inject its audience with internal terror, however. Brigham City succeeds in doing so by relying on a "greater" rather than visual power that causes us to question both our humanity and faith. As writer, director and star, Richard Dutcher quickly establishes the small community in which his character Wes serves as sheriff and is also affectionately referred to as Bishop because of his church ties, so that the majority of the movie's two-hour running time can be devoted to his pursuit of a madman. Still, we could have done without the stereotypical grandeur in the opening sequence -- the quiet and full-of-gusto sheriff expounds proudly to no one in particular that "people don't even lock their doors in this town." The Mormon way of life in the town is heavily documented as well, more so than the serial killer's impetus. Dutcher mistakenly allows his preaching to glare in the occasional scene and leaves himself open to ridicule. For example, community-goers sacrifice a perfectly beautiful Saturday to assist in another parishioner's move without complaint. And the baptismal of a supporting character (Ed) seemed superfluous at best. One can forgive Dutcher these crimes because of the lively, tongue-in-cheek banter he has written, some of the best of which is dolled out to two police headquarter employees, the earnest Peg (Carrie Morgan) and curmudgeonly Stu (Wilford Brimley). And it is Stu, coincidentally, who utters what could well be the movie's catchphrase: "What we got here is a paradise," he tells Wes following several of the killings, "and nothing attracts a serpent like paradise." Dutcher's absolution is warranted, too, for the meticulous care he practices in controlling the film's big revelation; our belief in his simplicity forces viewers to misidentify suspect after suspect until the one we never suspected comes out gun blazing! In the end, everything thought unexplainable is explained -- the killer's identity, his or her choice in victims, and the reason behind Dutcher's religious overtures, which, we learn, is just another test given to the sheriff to try and overcome as he walks alongside the serpent. (Laura DeBrizzi)

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