Reviewed by: Kotleta

We all hate it when people younger than us are successful in fields where youth is not a prerequisite, but you have to forgive David Gordon Green his sins. He may have just turned 30, but his latest film displays a maturity and confidence that makes you ponder the terms of his Faustian deal. Still, looking on the bright side - maybe he'll die young. Fingers crossed.

If Undertow is anything to go by, Mr Green's head is not a happy place to be. Hiding from their past in the backwoods of the Deep South (capitals obligatory), the all male Munn family eke out an existence of rural deprivation on a desolate hog farm. Mother Audrey is no more and her death is never explained. This is a family locked together by grief, yet separated by their inability to communicate. John Munn does his best to bring up teenage hellraiser Chris and tiny Tim (who thinks the three major food groups are paint, mud and petrol), but the arrival of jailbird brother Deel destroys their fragile equilibrium and the Munns are soon embroiled in a battle for survival as family secrets come to light and Deel's bitterness and rage push them all over the edge.

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This is a powerful coming-of-age story, wrapped up in a tense, edgy thriller. From the funny, yet shocking, opening sequence, we're drawn into an American Gothic world of dysfunctional relationships and desperate instinct-driven violence. The intensity is claustrophobic, as suspense builds and Deel hunts his prey through the swamplands of Southern white trash country, and tragedy seems inevitable.

It's been a long time since Jamie Bell danced his way into the nation's hearts as sullen ballet boy Billy Elliot and the intervening years have seen him develop into an actor with undeniable physical presence and a damn good American accent. I was astonished that Matthew McConaughey was capable of such a chilling performance as Deel, but the realisation that it was, in fact, Josh Lucas channelling his "good ole boy with hint of madness" public persona made the world seem a familiar place again.

This is the best film that any of the cast has appeared in for a long time and they all raise their game accordingly. With a little more depth to the characters and a little less unrelenting misery, this might have been perfect. But, maybe, I'm just bitter.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2005
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Undertow packshot
Atmospheric thriller from the Deep South resurrects shades of darker, deadlier incarnations.
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Read more Undertow reviews:

The Exile ****

Director: David Gordon Green

Writer: Joe Conway, David Gordon Green

Starring: Jamie Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Lucas, Devon Alan, Kristen Stewart, Robert Longstreet, Terry Loughlin, Eddie Rouse

Year: 2004

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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