Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Movie Review: Best Laid Plans 3 ½ Stars

In Best Laid Plans, a noirish crime drama directed by Mike Barker and written by Ted Griffin (who also wrote last year’s underrated Ravenous), desperate times call for desperate measures, as the cliched axiom goes. Another axiomatic cliché is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and in Best Laid Plans, the desperate measures lead to instant karmic retribution.

Nick (Alessandro Nivola) and Bryce (Josh Brolin) are two old college buddies who get reacquainted with one another when Bryce relocates to the small, working class town of Tropico, Nevada where Nick lives. Bryce, a frat rat kind of braggadocio, has moved to town to teach English at the community college. Until he finds an apartment, he is housesitting for a wealthy globetrotter.

In the wee hours of the morning, Nick gets a distressed phone call from Bryce. The girl they met that night at a bar ended up at home with him. But now she's claiming to be underage and is threatening to have him arrested for statutory rape. It gets worse. In his panic, Bryce manhandled the girl and handcuffed her to the pool table in the basement.

Nick calms Bryce and assures him that he will handle everything. We soon discover that he knows the girl, Lissa (Reese Witherspoon). In fact, she’s his girlfriend. Nick and Lissa were plotting to lift rare banknotes from the house to sell on the black market because Nick is in trouble with a local mobster. But the caper has gone horribly awry, and on top of the situation at hand, Nick still has to pony up ten grand by morning or it’ll be curtains. With each successive attempt to dig themselves out of the hole they are in, Nick and Lissa only seem to be digging deeper. This proves to be the ultimate test of their love.

Allesandro Nivola and Reese Witherspoon strike the perfect chords as the fabric of their character’s relationship unravels and reveals the raw and pure emotions, instincts and motives bubbling beneath the surface. Best Laid Plans is a refreshingly human film in a genre that all-too-often seems obsessed with Tarantino-esque dialogue and motiveless anti-hero grifters.

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