Thursday, August 17, 2017

Movie Review: "Undertow" (2004)

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Director: David Gordon Green
Year: 2004
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

A widower named John Munn has been raising his boys on a pig farm in rural Georgia. John's older son Chris has had some minor run-ins with the law, mostly for petty crimes. John's brother Deel shows up out of the blue and helps out on the farm, though he clearly has some bad history with his brother John. When John and Deel quarrel over some gold coins their father had when he passed away, Deel murders John in a fit of rage. Fearing for their lives and worried he will be blamed, Chris takes the coins and his brother Tim on the run with their uncle in hot pursuit.  

The above poster says this film's name is "Undertow." That's a typo, folks, it should have said "Underwhelming."

We're not exactly sure what inspired us to watch "Undertow." We know Roger Ebert called it one of the ten best films of 2004, but we cannot fathom why. For whatever reason, it was on our Netflix queue, so shortly before it was removed, we gave it a watch. Now that we have seen it, we honestly don't know what Roger Ebert saw in this film. He had a weird relationship with movies sometimes because, apart from a murder scene, there's little else to enjoy. It has a unique shooting style, but different isn't always good, which is the case here. Director David Gordon Green constantly uses freeze frames in the middle of his shots. He also uses repeated editing cuts and an overall shooting style that seems to give "Undertow" a completely unnatural flow to its movement.

The film screams 'pretentious art for art's sake' that's eerily reminiscent of something made by Terrence Malick, minus anything remotely intriguing. Some of the best films are executed with this idea in mind, but this same idea has also produced some of the worst movies ever conceived. In this case, an attempt at something different winds up being more distracting than anything. "Undertow" is overall bland and has a ridiculously slow moving pace. The story centers around a relationship between two sets of brothers. One set is Chris and Tim, played by Jamie Bell and Devon Alan. Chris is older and a bit of a troublemaker. The sheriff is well aware of who he is. Chris' little brother Tim is kind of sickly and weak, possibly due to his propensity for eating toxic chemicals. Due to his brother's sickly nature, Chris is stuck doing the brunt of the chores and looking out for Tim. The other brothers are the boys' father John, played by Dermot Mulroney, and their uncle Deel, played by Josh Lucas (what the hell kind of a name is Deel, anyway?). The set of older brothers has issues stemming from a feud over John's deceased wife, who was in a relationship with Deel at some point. After she died, Chris took his two boys and moved them into the middle of fartwind-no-man's-land to be pig farmers. They also fight over some gold coins their father had, which leads to Deel killing John and the only worthwhile scene in the film. Chris and Tim take the coins and go on the run across a rural southern landscape (shown through many wide shots of it, we might add). Meanwhile, Deel hunts them down, and quite honestly, we don't give a hoot if he finds them or not.

Unfortunately, "Undertow" wasn't able to keep our interest through their whole ordeal and we never felt any specific way for the characters. None of the actors seem to have the slightest bit of chemistry, and once the movie was all over, we wondered why we ever bothered watching it in the first place. In fact, we have already forgotten we did.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 55%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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