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The Bad Shepherd (2024) Review

A group of friends on a hunting trip come across a fortune in the woods. We’ve seen this often enough to know that nothing good is going to come from taking the money, drugs, or whatever valuables they find. In The Bad Shepherd, it’s even more obvious that this money should be left where it is. That’s because it’s in a bag carried by a woman who has a gun and a gunshot wound.

But it wasn’t the wound that did her in. It was a big ass truck driven by Travis (Brett Zimmerman, 1313: Hercules Unbound!, Hunger for Justice) who is on a hunting trip with his buddies Paul (Christos Kalabogias, A Haunting on Gabriel Street, Independents’ Day) is ready to call the police. But John (Scotty Tovar, What Still Remains, Finestkind) notices the money in the bag and suggests not calling the police, an idea that Leonard (Justin Taite, Outlaws Don’t Get Funerals, Zombie Punch) can get behind.

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Travis is more than happy to cover this up, as he’s been drinking and already has multiple DWIs. But before they can dispose of the body, Detective Bravo (Douglas Smith, Wickenburg) who might as well have “corrupt cop” tattooed on his forehead shows up. Soon there are two bodies to dispose of.

Director Geo Santini (After the Reign, Hotel California) and writer Ryan David Jahn give us almost no background on these guys apart from they have families, one owns a failing garage, etc. So it’s asking a bit much to expect us to accept their sudden willingness to draw on a cop, let alone shoot them. The Bad Shepherd then asks us to further suspend disbelief when someone turns up at their cabin just as they’re burying the body. He claims his name is Sidney (Geo Santini) and the money is his. He also seems to know a lot about the foursome, much of which there seems to be no way he could know.

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Who is he? How does he know what he knows? And why is he so calm? These questions start gnawing at the hunter’s minds and pushing them towards paranoia. The presence of Outback (Andrew Pagana, T-Rex Ranch, Surrounded), who claims to be a trapper, in the woods behind the cabin pushes them to another crisis, and it’s not long before their own secrets start to emerge, and they begin turning on each other.

The biggest problem that The Bad Shepherd faces is just how obvious, much of it is. The title should be a strong indicator of where the plot is heading, and it quickly becomes obvious Sidney can’t be human, which makes the final act reveal completely anticlimactic.

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With a better script and performances, it still could have worked as the viewer witnessed how the characters were manipulated into their actions. But the dialogue is rough and the acting ranges from adequate to embarrassing, with Santini’s performance being the worst of all. Rather than the calmly evil persona he wants to project, he simply sounds lifeless and monotone, as if he’s as bored as the audience.

There is some mystery in The Bad Shepherd, though it’s the result of an unclear script. The title suggests one identity for Sidney, backed up by knowledge of his knowledge of the character’s lives and thoughts. But what we actually see suggests something different, and that leaves the viewer once again wondering how he knows what he knows. Sadly, by the time the film gets to that point, I doubt anyone will care what the answer is, they’ll just be glad it’s over.

The Bad Shepherd is available on VOD and Digital Platforms from Saban Films.

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