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Matt Damon and John Krasinski star in 'Promised Land'

'Promised Land' follows a corporate salesman who experiences a Capra-esque redemption.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / January 4, 2013

'Promised Land' stars Matt Damon.

Sam Jones/Focus Features/AP

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Matt Damon plays a corporate salesman for Global, a multibillion-dollar fracking company, in “Promised Land,” which he also co-wrote and produced. He’s the villain of the piece, at least ostensibly, but it’s clear he’s on the road to a Capra-esque redemption.

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Directed by Gus Van Sant, the film is best when it lays out the woes of the depressed Pennsylvania farm community infiltrated by Damon’s Steve Butler and his wised-up business partner Sue (well-played by Frances McDormand). Steve is there to convince the locals to sell their land for the purposes of hydraulic fracturing in exchange for a big payday. His plans go awry when a folksy high school teacher, played by Hal Holbrook at his folkiest, questions the company’s motives and the safety of the process.

Enter Dustin, a green activist played by John Krasinksi (who co-wrote the script). Dustin wages a one-man campaign against Global while at the same time waging a (hokey) war with Steve for the affections of a local schoolteacher (Rosemarie DeWitt).

“Promised Land” is more effective as an anti-fracking screed than as a drama. Damon has his low-key charisma and Van Sant captures the enraged anomie of the community, but, except for one big plot twist, everything in this film is telegraphed from the first frame. Grade: B- (Rated R for language.)

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