Best Laid Plans

Best Laid Plans


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

In the sleaze pit of American film noir, what you see is what you fear. Is the blonde with the easy smile a hooker or bait? Is the young man at the recycling plant a patsy or a sting artist? Why does the preppy English teacher stay in the flashest pad in town?

Written by a 26-year-old (Theodore Griffin), directed by an Englishman (Mike Barker) and performed by a trio of the brightest new generation of actors (Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin), Best Laid Plans has the promise of Very Bad Things, while retaining the menace of a John Dahl (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction) thriller.

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Lacking the cruelty of its conviction, the film falls short of a Blue Velvet mind ruck. The tricksy twists lead to a damp denouement, piercing expectation with a sharp reminder that good plots follow through. This one builds beautifully before losing its nerve, leaving a bitter taste of irony.

The preppy prof (Brolin) takes the blonde (Witherspoon) to bed. She says she's been raped and has student cards to prove she's underage. The recyclist (Nivola) comes to help his buddy. What to do? How to salvage the wreckage? The girl's in the basement, trussed up. Kill her? Scare her stupid? Dump her in the trunk of a car and drive? Drive where?

Barker sets the mood with classy close-ups. The small town has a time-warped melancholy. Nivola projects the intensity of a man racing before an avalanche. And then Griffin falters, suddenly adrift. Barker can't hold it. The movie lies down in the road. Tension slips away.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Best Laid Plans packshot
Film noir about a teacher who sleeps with an underage girl.
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Director: Mike Barker

Writer: Ted Griffin

Starring: Josh Brolin, Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Gene Wolande

Year: 1999

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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