The opening credits of Deepwater almost convinced me I'd died and gone to B-movie heaven. Present and correct are deranged support acts like Michael Ironside and Xander Berkeley, a babe with looks as good as her acting's bad plus a vaguely pornographic name (Mía Maestro), a former great hope turned wasted talent (Lucas Black) and, best of all, Mr Straight to Video himself: Peter Coyote. The eponymous location is pretty eerie too: a suitably unremarkable, distant small town in middle America.

Ooh, them's weird folk out there... so finds naive main character Nat (Black). Happily riding along in his (stolen) automobile after a pub brawl, drifter Nat stumbles on Finch (Coyote), sitting upside down in a crashed car astride the highway as if it’s perfectly normal. Within minutes, Nat is suffering Finch's grinning cajoles, poor anger management and alluring wife (Maestro), rabbiting on about a secret safe in her nasty spouse’s office.

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"HE'S A NUTTER, NAT!” we warn, but it’s too late – it's soon established that the cheerily chuckling Finch - who has bribed poor Nat into painting his ever-empty motel - runs the town. The police are in his thrall, local gamblers in his debt and even snarling canine XX is reduced to a wagging wet blanket in his presence. Worse still, those who cross the cigar-smoking crackpot tend to end up dead in ditches.

Fearing his plans to start an ostrich farm – no, really - might be derailed, nice Nat concocts an especially cunning plan: steal the swag and elope with the girl. Trouble is, first he has a boxing match against the surely-harmless-yet-clearly-completely-deadly Finch. It's as Nat undertakes an intensive training routine - think Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, but with one-arm press-ups - that things start to become shaped like a pear.

Where previously David S Marfield’s film had contentedly dressed itself as a silly thriller draped in small-town menace, now suddenly come preternatural pretensions. Characters implausibly vanish: broken curtains seemingly fix themselves; the local lake displays untimely hypnotic qualities. Furiously jerky camera takes and a drum-demolishing soundtrack up the (pre)tension as Nat struggles to focus on his forearm jab.

Such hokum and a lamentably OTT ending ruin what had been a pleasingly ponderous piece of pap. Sure, there are clunky clichés at every creaky corner (think Coyote creeping up from behind as a drum shudders, or Maestro doing her best "now you see me, now you don't"), but Deepwater was simple enough to maintain cheesy enjoyment.

Most of this pleasure stemmed from the fine form of the Coyote, joyously at his most barking. Clad in listless short-sleeves-and-slacks and replete with exaggerated side parting, his Finch is as grizzly as he is grotesque, and yet somehow cuddly with it. Black is predictably overshadowed opposite such a VHS veteran, but still does well as the unwisely gumptious upstart.

Despite never having close to the taut elegance Red Rock West or menace of U Turn – fellow hick-happy films – Deepwater is still a passable addition to this most paranoid of genres.

Reviewed on: 08 Jul 2008
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A drifter becomes sucked into the shady dealings of a businessman after saving him from an accident. But will the businessman's wife prove his downfall?
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Director: David S Marfield

Writer: David S Marfield, based on the book by Matthew F Jones

Starring: Lucas Black, Peter Coyote, Mía Maestro, Lesley Ann Warren, Xander Berkeley, Jason Cerbone, Michael Ironside

Year: 2005

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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