Kris stars as Quebec Bill Bonhomme, a schemer and ex-whiskey runner in Vermont during prohibition. Kris is a force on the screen, to the point where his mostly quiet performance hints of an extremely wild side underneath. Same goes for the real soul of the movie, his son Wild Bill (Charlie McDermott). As the movie opens, Wild Bill's grandmother Cordelia (Geneviève Bujold) is teaching him a school lesson about "Paradise Lost" (setting up a disinheritance theme), while Quebec Bill is busy setting fire to their barn while trying to seed the clouds and make rain. Homeless, and without hay to feed their animals (including an incongruous peacock), they go about trying to beg, borrow, or steal, to no luck. So finally Quebec Bill makes the unpopular decision to go on a whiskey run (worth $1,000) with his brother in-law Henry (Gary Farmer) and his farmhand/ex-con Rat (William Sanderson). And, he makes the additional unpopular decision to bring his son along to teach him the business. Along the way, they learn that the whiskey they'll be running is stolen, and the new force in the whiskey business, Carcajou (Lothaire Bluteau) is hot on their trail. However, it's always a little off-balance for an action caper movie, and it quickly becomes apparent that it's more of a philosophical movie. Wild Bill has hallucinations, mostly of Cordelia giving him advice. Carcajou turns out to be unkillable, and eventually even Quebec Bill starts having hallucinations. It quickly becomes apparent this is more a coming-of-age philosophical story about Wild Bill, his roots, disinheritance, and killing your father in order to become your own man (metaphorically, at least).
The acting is great (and seriously, I've only barely touched on the cast, Luis Guzman shows up as a drunken priest, and much more), and the northeast scenery is great. The philosophy is a little heavy-handed, not so much in telling you what to think, but in telling you that you must think about it (probably more than is necessary). But even though I knew how the philosophical points will play out, the journey there was fascinating.