Undertow

"OK"

Undertow Review


If I were to choose the single greatest American directorial debut of the last ten years, David Gordon Green's "George Washington" would be very near the top of the list. This extraordinarily lyrical film unfolded its odd, wonderful moments with a near complete disregard for plot mechanics. Green's second film, "All the Real Girls," included many of the same disconnected moments, but they were now spattered into a story about a womanizer who falls in love for the first time.

His third film, "Undertow," continues in the same vein as his latter effort. It still has the good stuff, but now it's steeped in a rudimentary, even ludicrous, plot. It plays like nothing more than an exceedingly well-written "Friday the 13th" sequel.

"Undertow" tells the story of a Southern family: a soft-spoken father, John (Dermot Mulroney), a troublesome older boy, Chris (Jamie Bell), and a sickly younger boy, Tim (Devon Alan); their mother has long ago passed on. When John's brother Deel (Josh Lucas) turns up on their doorstep, fresh from prison, John invites him to stay. It turns out that the menacing Deel is really after a case of gold coins that their father once collected. He stops at nothing to get them, not even killing his own brother and stalking the two boys across hill and dale.

The boys push him out a window, hit him with a shovel, smack him and batter him in various ways, and just like Jason Voorhees in "Friday the 13th," he keeps getting up and keeps coming back.

Eventually the movie's sustained mood gives way to a kind of sickly thudding suspense, and they fail to work together. Green once revealed to me in an interview that he enjoys these kinds of odd crossovers, but in this case a smart film turns into a dumb one.

Working with his constant collaborator, cinematographer Tim Orr, Green has been often compared to Terrence Malick, who is credited as a producer on this film. Malick has also made three films -- all masterworks -- that have moved in the opposite direction: from heavy plot ("Badlands") to mixed ("Days of Heaven") to very little plot ("The Thin Red Line"). Malick is talented enough to make this shift, but Green has a long way to go before he can balance his films the same way; Undertow is a far cry from "Badlands."

Undertow still boasts superb atmosphere and its ethereal sense of place, notably a kind of hideout in the woods that appears late in the movie, a graffiti covered facade of a crumbling building in the middle of nowhere. But if the film were a debut, it would be only the promising calling card of a talented director. We know Green can do better.



Undertow

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Friday 17th December 2004

Distributed by: MGM

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 64 Rotten: 53

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Chris Munn, as Lila, as Bern, as Officer Clayton, as John Munn, as Tim Munn, as Deel Munn, as Wadsworth Pela, as Amica Pela, Charles 'Jester' Poston as Hard Hat Dandy, Mark Darby Robinson as Conway, as Muriel the Cashier, Alfred M. Jackson as Dock Worker, William D. Turner as Dock Worker, as Jacob, as Violet, Carla Bessey as Violet's Friend, as Gus, Bill McKinney as Grandfather, Michael Gulick as Old Shirtless Man, David Blazina as Watch-Guard, Carlos DeLoach as Big Bad Cop, George Smith as Milk Man, H.G. Green as Newscaster, Jesse Scott Nelson as Retardoe, Craig Zobel as Bridegroom, Sophia Lin as Mail-Order Bride, Anne Marie Dove as Tattoo Girl, Thelma Louise Carter as Grandmother, as Grant the Mechanic

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Advertisement
Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

With a sweeping, picturesque setting and emotive performances, this dramatic epic will appeal to moviegoers...

The Accountant Movie Review

The Accountant Movie Review

While this slick dramatic thriller plays with some intriguing ideas and themes, it never actually...

Train to Busan Movie Review

Train to Busan Movie Review

Leave it to the Koreans to reinvent the zombie horror movie and put a high-speed...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.