| The Red Right Hand
This debut directorial piece from Scott Frank, the screenwriter of Out Of Sight, Minority Report and Get Shorty, poses an array of interesting characters and scenarios but doesn’t really round off overly well. Chris Pratt [Gordon-Levitt] is a wealthy, successful student whose life is destroyed by his own cockiness. Whilst out driving with his girlfriend and two friends one night, Chris decides to show them something impressive. On the dark, secluded desert road, Chris turns off the headlights to reveal hundreds of fireflies. His passengers become nervous and scared by Chris' recklessness. As he turns the lights back on, the road curves and the car flies off the road. It's not until later in the film that we discover Chris' girlfriend lost her leg, the two backseat passengers lost their lives and Chris was thrown ninety feet, sustaining mass head injuries and suffering brain damage.
Four years later, we see Chris trying to lead as normal a life as he can. Living with his older, blind flatmate, Lewis [Daniels], is fine and they discuss plans to open a breakfast/lunch diner but Chris misses female companionship. Due to the mental trauma, he is unable to get exciting work and is forced to work as a janitor for a small bank, learning the duties of a teller by night. As part of his counselling, he must meet with Janet [Carla Gugino] and discuss his problems. At this point we realise that he is not only dealing with the every day frustrations of a young, under-qualified man but on top of this his memory is unreliable and he has a tendency to blurt out his sexual thoughts and feelings without restraint. Unable to connect with people, Chris becomes more and more embittered and discouraged. It's at this point that he meets Gary [Goode], who claims to have dated his sister, years ago. Gary takes pity on Chris but explains that he's better than where he has found himself. Through Gary's friendship, Chris meets the spry, young Luvlee Lemons [Fisher], a slightly simple-minded ex-stripper. Finally feeling accepted and something closer to what he once was, Chris is let-in on Gary's true intentions. Gary is leading a small group that plan to rob the bank that Chris is working at; they then sell him a tale of money being power, explaining, "Whoever has the money, has the power." Chris buys into it, for a chance to feel accepted but desperately wants to bail at the last minute. The heist goes pear-shape and Chris makes off with the money, while a wounded Gary takes Lewis hostage.
This film has been advertised (in the States, at least; there's no mention of it here just yet) as a clever heist film. To some respect, it is but the heist itself really only encompasses a small portion of the overall running time. The main focal point is Chris learning to live with his condition, the heist element is interesting and fairly well done -let down by a few plot holes- but the character studies are the primary selling point. Joseph Gordon-Levitt offers a fantastic performance, let down only by flaws in the script. I wouldn't say that he was more enjoyable than in Brick but he is certainly building up an impressive oeuvre. Matthew Goode, fresh out of Brit-flicks such as Imagine Me & You and Match Point drifts back and forth between charismatic and villainous with ease, offering an extremely entertaining performance. The other character to note is Jeff Daniels' Lewis, who offers an absurd amount of comic relief and emotional support for the young Mr. Pratt. On the downside, Isla Fisher's character is unbelievably hollow (despite being the apparent femme fatale) and presents a large amount of script-related flaws that bothered me throughout. The direction is actually quite impressive, mixing dark, shadowy apartment rooms with the Kansas City snow - I know, I wouldn't be the first to link Kansas and snow but there you have it. The slow build up is paid off with an exhilarating final half an hour, rounding off a rather clever and original piece that demonstrates the importance of fully-rounded characters; even if it is ultimately let down by weaker background plot elements and characters.
12th October 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
Two for you; the first is Chris continually leaving his keys in the ignition, leading him to keep a spare in his shoe. We see that it afflicts him every single time he steps out of the car and the obvious annoyance it causes him. The second is set shortly after the heist. Everything has gone wrong and Chris had to make off in the only car available to him; the one with the money in the boot. As he's racing down the road, with the lights off, he begins crying and screaming, suddenly remembering everything that happened the night of the accident. It's a very well-done scene with some tremendous acting from Gordon-Levitt that opens up a new level of confidence for the character.
I particularly enjoyed the three characters, highlighted in the main body of my review but if I had to select one in particular, I would go with Lewis. His plucky, upbeat nature and simple candour offers a nice break to the plots' bleak outlook but also reveals why Chris keeps his company and values and enjoys their friendship. The beard reminded me of Daniels' performance in The Squid And The Whale but the characters are nothing alike... so this is irrelevant.
"Once upon a time, I woke up. I took a shower with soap. I skipped breakfast, so that I could follow an armoured car"
In A Few Words:
"Entertaining, more as a character study than as a thriller. Littered with gold performances from Matthew Goode, Jeff Daniels and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt"