Burn Country | An Afghan refugee snoops into backwoods crime in Northern California

Burn Country Dominic Rains
(Image credit: © Icon Film Distribution)

Burn Country Dominic Rains

An Afghan refugee who has found asylum in a small Northern California town gets caught up in backwoods crime in  the unusual mystery thriller Burn Country (aka The Fixer).

Back in Afghanistan, Osman (Dominic Rains) had been a fixer and interpreter, translating the local culture for an American correspondent, whose police officer mom (Melissa Leo, excellent as ever) is now his host in the US. At home he is an expert at reading sometimes-dangerous signals.

Here, however, he finds himself increasingly flummoxed by his new environment after he gets a two-bit job writing the police blotter for a local newspaper and takes it on himself to solve a messy crime involving James Franco’s resident wastrel.

Director Ian Olds (who made a 2009 documentary about a real-life Afghan fixer) isn’t particularly bothered about tying up his film’s many loose ends, which may frustrate some viewers. He’s more interested in the local colour, whether provided by a wacky avant-garde troupe of actors or the neighbourhood crime family. And in the end it is the film’s offbeat atmosphere rather than its mystery that engages us the most.

Certificate 15. Runtime 99 mins. Director Ian Olds

Burn Country debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on 26 November. Available on Digital from Icon Film Distribution.


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.