For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I am in total agreement with the man who came up with this law, Sir Isaac Newton. The way I describe it is by saying our lives are made up of pluses and minuses. Where Mr. Newton’s law is used in a physical context, mine emphasizes the cause and effect from the choices each of us make in our daily life. If one tries saving money by buying the cheapest frying pan, it may not last as long and force you to buy a replacement sooner. Driving faster than the speed limit on a highway increases the chances of you being stopped by the police, receiving a speeding ticket from them. A person who breaks into a house with the intentions of robbing it may startle the owner who accidentally shoots them with a pistol. It is true for every action there is an equal reaction and in this excellent dramatic thriller this is what happened to homeowners Ann and Richard Dane, played by Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes, 3:10 to Yuma) and Michael C. Hall (Kill Your Darlings, Dexter-TV), when a man broke into their house. A few days later the dead robber’s father Russel, played by Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff, Mud), happened to show up in town. Richard was sure he knew exactly what Russel was looking for and would do whatever was needed to protect his family. This Sundance Film Festival nominated movie had a great film noir vibe to it. The scenes had a sparse, atmospheric quality that only heightened the tension in the story. Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepard were outstanding in their roles. As for Don Johnson (Machete, Nash Bridges-TV) who played Russel’s friend Jim Bob, I thought this was one of his best roles on film in a long time. Set in Texas during the late 1980s, the sets were a perfect accompaniment to the overall process of telling a story. Now let me say a couple of things about the story. I felt I was watching one of those old time films that was free of any special effects, had a no nonsense way of conveying emotions and just let the actors take the script to create a truly believable performance. Add in some unexpected twists in the story and the movie studio had a complete exciting, tense movie thriller on their hands. There were several scenes where violence and blood were shown.
3 1/3 stars
In our everyday life things we don’t know do not necessarily cause us stress or anxiety. In a math class, there may be an unknown variable in an equation you must figure out. Maybe you have an appointment in a part of the city that is not familiar to you or you were invited to a party where you do not know what type of gift to buy for the host. As I said before, these scenarios should not be too stressful for you. Now if the unknown is the whereabouts of a loved one that would be a different story. I have been fortunate not to have experienced such an awful thing. When newscasts report on a missing child or relative, they usually show family members in distress. Days or weeks can go by without any news and the relatives just want to know what happened to their loved ones. This type of scenario was the premise for this dramatic crime thriller. Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Gerry) played Iraqi war veteran Rodney Baze Jr. Experiencing a hard adjustment to life back home, in the small steel mill town, Rodney could not find employment except for some clandestine fighting matches. When he did not return from one of his matches his older brother Russell, played by Christian Bale (American Psycho, The Prestige), could not wait for the local police to find him. He took matters into his own hands. From the start, this intense film created heaviness within me. It felt as if each scene was created to convey a sense of resigned depression. The cinematography which was beautiful further helped convey those feelings. As for the acting it was subtly superb by Christian and Casey. Then there was Woody Harrelson (Rampart, No Country for Old Men) playing Harlan DeGroat. He was as wickedly sinister as he has every been. I also thought Willem Dafoe (The Hunter, The English Patient) was perfect for his role as John Petty. The disappointment in this film festival winner came from the script. I found it weak as it lost steam by the end. If the actors’ incredible acting had a stronger screenplay, this movie would have been close to a 4 stars rating. Instead I left the theater knowing I had seen a great cast, but not knowing what the writers were thinking when they wrote the screenplay. There were scenes that had violence and blood in them.
2 3/4 stars
There were two extreme examples of love I saw when growing up. One was a married couple who lived in our apartment building. They bickered and argued almost every day; their voices sometimes reaching the decibels of a roaring jet engine. Though they fought constantly they still were affectionate to each other. The other example was Tony and Maria from the movie West Side Story. It was the scene in the gymnasium where all the lights dim except for a spotlight on each of them; as they see the other for the first time, from across a crowded gym floor. I preferred this example, believing it would happen to me when I fall in love. It took a long time before I experienced something close to that scene from the movie and I thought I would live happily ever after. We learn by example and sometimes those examples give mixed messages. This beautifully filmed drama showed different ways people were motivated by love. Part thriller and part coming of age tale; the story revolved around 14 year old friends Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and Neckbone, played by newcomer Jacob Lofland. Upon discovering a mysterious stranger living in a boat stuck up in a tree, the two boys agreed to help him reunite with the love of his life. Matthew McConaughey (The Paperboy, Magic Mike) played the stranger who called himself Mud and Reese Witherspoon (This Means War, Walk the Line) played his girlfriend Juniper. Matthew and Tye were the big standouts in this richly textured film. I was impressed with Matthew taking this edgy role and making it his own, similar to what he did in Killer Joe. Tye reminded me of a young Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), having that same type of face that easily expresses emotions. The supporting cast enriched this film. Sam Shepard (Safe House, The Right Stuff) was excellent as sharpshooter Tom Blankenship. I only wished the gifted Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Runaways) as Neckbone’s Uncle Galen had a bigger role. This Cannes Film Festival nominee told a multilayered story that was filled with diverse characters. The only commonality shared among the individuals was the effects of a shared or fading love.
3 1/2 stars