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

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

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.