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The Undertow

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
The Undertow
from Film Forum, 11/11/04

Undertow gets caught in waves of mediocre reviews

David Gordon Green's new film Undertow is earning comparisons to the famous 1955 film Night of the Hunter, due to its familiar plot line of boys on the run from a murderer after their father is killed. The film stars Jamie Bell, who danced his way into stardom a few years back as Billy Elliott, and Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, Hulk), who again appears as a sinister and violent man. Dermot Mulroney costars as the boys' father.

"Though the film is imbued with a good sense of place and the suspenseful pace never flags, some of the plot elements strain credulity," writes Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service), "and many viewers will find the violence and gritty realism of the violence a challenge to sit through. Bell is quite plausible as this Southern farm boy with not a trace of his English accent. Lucas, doing a complete turnaround from his sympathetic father role in Around the Bend, is as menacing as they come as the murderous uncle, and Mulroney is all taciturn solidity as the father."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "Undertow has scenes that are brilliantly executed but overall the film comes up a bit short. Initially compelling, it begins to break down a little more than halfway through the film and ends a bit too conveniently for all that has come before it. Jamie Bell, who was so impressive in Billy Elliot, does fine work as the pensive teen who finds himself in a do or die situation with the responsibility of his weaker brother weighing on his shoulders. Green films in a gritty, no frills kind of way and the result is a naturalistic style where the actors totally immerse themselves in their characters."

Mainstream critics are divided as to whether the film sinks or swims.

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