Bugtussle – a short film set in the town of Bugtussle, Oklahoma with a population of a few hundred, deep dives into what it looks like to have practically nothing – no money and no opportunities.
Based on the infamous John Steinback novella Of Mice and Men, the film follows two bank robbers with high flying dreams, waiting for their chance to escape their life. A story done many times before, but Writer/Director Derek Sitter creates an elevated version of this tale utilizing comedy and heartwarming drama.
Bugtussle begins with Coyote (Derek Sitter) and Crow (John Mese) hightailing it through a forest, running for their lives, from their recent bank robbery. Sounds of helicopters pursue them relentlessly until they find a brief respite in a seemingly abandoned shack. The audience learns very quickly that Coyote has been shot after firing on one of the bank tellers, and now the two thieves must hide out and wait for their pursuers to pass by.
Crow is happy to settle into a chair, play cards, and wait for a pickup from their friends, but Coyote becomes increasingly anxious and impatient. Coyote’s constant pestering of Crow brings in some much needed levity, and although Crow consistently tells Coyote to ‘shut up’, he can’t help but give in to talking about what they are going to do with the money they just stole. A big house in California, cars, ice cream machines, the beach – nothing is off limits to the two down-on-their-luck dreamers.
Sitter and Mese are both engaging and arresting to watch on screen. Sitter plays the stereotypical thief who isn’t as smart as some of the others, but also exhibits moments of brilliance and insight. Mese is clearly the ‘brains’ of the two, and his older brother-like qualities toward Sitter are endearing. They are very believable as two poor men who just want the chance to do something better in life, to have more, and feel secure. Seeing them switch from fighting about their situation to fantasizing about their future is a treat to watch.
Of course it wouldn’t be a film about a robbery without a few complications. As the day wears on for Coyote and Crow, with no help in sight, they are interrupted by Chuckles (Jefferson Wisdom), a farmer that owns the shack they are holed up in. The two robbers are faced with a difficult decision as Chuckles now knows their faces and names. The stakes elevate quickly and it looks as if their dreams are slipping away with each passing second.
Without giving anything away, the film ends on both tragic and hopeful notes. BUGTUSSLE is a fun romp into the tense, and oftentimes, funny interactions between two men who just want to escape their life.