UNDERTOW

BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
DECEMBER 7, 2010

Before “Pineapple Express” was a huge success, director David Gordon Green produced small drama films like “All The Real Girls” and “Snow Angels,” featuring soon-to-be big names like Zooey Deschanel and Kate Beckinsale. Among those dramatic pieces that kickstarted Green’s career was a thriller entitled “Undertow,” featuring an early Jamie Bell (before “Jumper” fame) and Kristen Stewart (pre-“Twilight” fame). Josh Lucas and Dermot Mulroney fill out the adult cast, playing estranged brothers.

Lucas plays hothead and freeloader Deel, returning home to Georgia and his brother, John (Mulroney), to collect his share of an heirloom of gold coins left to them by their father. By barging into the household, Deel not only stirs up trouble with John but John’s two sons, Tim (Devon Alan) and already troubled Chris (Jamie Bell). Eventually, the trouble spreads when Deel discovers the hidden gold coins behind a family portrait, and a struggle ensues, ending with John’s blood on Deel’s hands. The rest of the film is a chase between Deel and the two young boys who escape with the gold coins.

Josh Lucas plays the role of a lifetime. Compared with a recent role Lucas played in “Stolen” as a worried single father, the character of an overbearing loner with the capacity to kill children from “Undertow” far overshadows the weak and innocent character from “Stolen.” Lucas steals the show and presents prestige killer attributes that Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers failed to display even on their best days. Plain and simple, Josh Lucas is scary, and I loved every moment.

Jamie Bell displays outstanding child acting skills and shows natural signs of being a massive prospect in the future, delivering an exceptional performance in “Jumper” and making another considerable leap into big-name films like “Defiance” and coming out soon, “The Eagle.” Suppressing his English accent and playing superb off of the very young Devon Alan, Bell deserves the recognition he receives from “Undertow.”

The mood that Green creates in “Undertow” screams murder before any blood gets shed. The setting builds an arena for such dark occurrences and shadows any doubts on whether they could take place. The audience shares the same fear the boys exert from being chased by the murderous Deel, revealing Green’s sleight of hand in building suspense as if he had been creating these films for centuries.

Watch “Pineapple Express” and laugh with the rest of those who appreciate its humor, but consider that David Gordon Green came from making deep and rich dramatic pieces that do not exist in current comedies. Green proves he has a gift of producing such different types of material, with none of his films resembling one another. He makes these on a different level than most directors, becoming an independent director for the masses.

RELEASE DATE
October 22, 2004

DIRECTOR
David Gordon Green

WRITTEN BY
David Gordon Green
Joe Conway
Terrence Malick (story by)

STUDIO
United Artists
MGM Distribution Co.

R
(for violence)

DRAMA
THRILLER
108 minutes

CINEMATOGRAPHER
Tim Orr

COMPOSER
Philip Glass

EDITOR
Zene Baker
Steven Gonzales

CAST
Jamie Bell
Dermot Mulroney
Kristen Stewart
Devon Alan
Shiri Appleby
Josh Lucas

PRODUCED BY
Terrence Malick
Edward R. Pressman
Lisa Muskat

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