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

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

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.