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.