For indie horror fans, Mickey Keating might already be a familiar name. He’s a strikingly prodigious filmmaker, with five feature-length productions already under his belt well before his 30th birthday. But for audiences who don’t already know his work, the upcoming crime drama Crooks is shaping up to be one of Keating’s slickest and most broadly appealing films yet — and it might just signal a new phase of his career.
According to Deadline, Crooks will star Juno Temple, Lena Headey, and Mark Kassen. The film is set in 1968 Las Vegas and follows a pair of hustlers, Johnny (Kassen) and Faye (Temple), who rob the decaying Moonlight Casino — only for things to turn hairy when Faye double-crosses Johnny, takes off with the money, and eventually finds herself being pursued by the oldest and deadliest assassin in town. The story only gets knottier when Faye meets Blanche (Headey), a “friendly but crazy waitress,” at a truck stop.
Keating already has a reputation for crafting stylish, compelling, and tightly directed genre exercises on shoestring budgets, so there’s reason to be excited that he’s now set to helm a heist flick. His filmography is perhaps most notable for its sheer range. Keating’s 2013 debut, Ritual, is a brisk occult-tinged thriller about a couple on the run from a murderous cult. His sophomore outing, Pod, is a tense Invasion of the Body Snatchers-esque slice of paranoiac sci-fi horror about siblings trying to stage an intervention for their unstable brother.
Darling, released in 2015 (the same year as Pod — Keating’s work ethic is enviable, to say the least), helped solidify his standing as one of horror’s most promising young auteurs. With heavy shades of 1960s female-driven suspense such as Repulsion, the spare, black-and-white psychological horror film follows a young woman’s descent into madness as she house-sits an ominous Manhattan apartment. In our analysis, we cited its uncanny power to “[keep] the viewer unsettled and uneasy, even as the film lays its expository groundwork.”
Keating’s next film, Carnage Park, is a pulpy 1970s-set thriller centered on a female hostage that the director himself described as “a Sam Peckinpah-esque, neo-Western, survival type movie.” His most recent release, Psychopaths, is a psychedelic slasher homage that follows several serial killers over the course of a single night. If there’s anything we can learn from the sprawling trajectory of Keating’s work, it’s that he’s an incredibly ambitious storyteller with a knack for creating complicated, jagged-edged heroines, and Crooks looks poised to follow the same thrilling tradition.
However, the slightly amplified star power of Crooks might also be a game-changer for Keating. Granted, it’s not the first time that he’s worked with more well-known actors — he has frequently featured horror maestro Larry Fessenden in his films, and Sean Young appears in a small role as a mysterious landlady in Darling. Yet Keating has generally drawn from familiar but lower-profile actresses for his female lead. Lauren Ashley Carter starred in both Pod and Darling, while Ashley Bell starred in Carnage Park and Psychopaths.
The choice to cast Temple and Headey, who are both newcomers to Keating’s filmography yet are more broadly recognizable actresses, suggests that Crooks might be a more ambitious addition to Keating’s existing lineup. Headey, given her leading role on Game of Thrones, is likely the most well-known face. Temple, a versatile character actress, is an equally intriguing pick. Having played supporting roles in everything from swooning period dramas like Atonement and The Three Musketeers to grittier fare like Killer Joe and Black Mass, she seems a perfectly eclectic choice to front Crooks.
Kassen, who previously worked with Keating on Psychopaths, praised the director’s knack for creating colorful and unorthodox female roles in conjunction with the casting announcement. “What he’s been able to do in creating special, enigmatic and empowering female characters in genre films has really grown to another level of scope and ambition in Crooks,” he said. With this cast and a director already known for making sharp, forceful genre films, we’re certain Crooks is going to be killer.