Undertow - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Undertow Reviews

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March 19, 2018
Undertow is a boring film. It is about a volatile teen who lives with his father and his little brother. Jamie Bell and Dermot Mulroney give horrible performances. The screenplay is a little in places. David Gordon Green did a terrible job directing this movie. I was not impressed with this motion picture.
½ March 18, 2018
This flick earned 3.5 stars because of the performances of the two sons and the other supporting actors. They saved the movie. The plot should have been more developed. It had the makings of a complex story however it fell way short. Nonetheless, I was entertaining and 3.5 stars for a home video movie.
April 9, 2017
As with the 70's films of Terrence Malick, one of Undertow's producers, the more intoxicated it becomes with rural desolation and fecundity, the more deeply in touch it puts you with its characters' souls.
August 22, 2016
Mostly pointless, depressing drama about how little family means to some members while still meaning thew world to others. Two brothers listen as their father and uncle fight over gold coins left to them both. Dad ends up pushing up daisies, and uncle sets out to to get the boys - who took the coins - because they are the only witnesses who can tie him to the crime. The dialogue is delivered too slowly, giving the movie a stifled feeling. Even Shiri Appleby, whose acting I really enjoy, was kinda just there in this movie. The ending is purposefully ambiguous. Not worth your time.
August 15, 2016
I could only watch half an hour of this because I like to think that Southerners are not paint-eating imbeciles with marginal intellects...
July 16, 2016
Quite an enjoyable film and good story but felt a bit slow and predictable
July 29, 2015
Some real tough scenes to watch and more of a slower pace than I liked but in the end it all comes together.
½ July 10, 2015
I'm a huge fan of David Gordon Green. Apart from Your Highness and The Sitter, his films will always be like magic to me. DGG has his own style and I absolutely adore what he's done with his filmography. And I do consider him my fifth favorite director of all-time. There's something truly beautiful and astounding with mostly each piece of film that he's done.

Having never seen Undertow, I was pretty stoked to check it so I picked it up from Amazon. All in all, I did enjoy Undertow. Not as much as the likes of George Washington or Prince Avalanche or even Snow Angels but Undertow is a solid Southern Gothic that has some truly great moments, including a perfectly edited opening sequence that really captivated me.

The acting was authentic (Especially that by Josh Lucas who knocked his role out of the park) and Tim Orr's cinematography made the film's viewing a lot more pleasurable. Tim always manages to make the best of every moment and for that, he is always one of my more preferred DOP's. Also, it was super cool to see Pat Healy in a small role as Grant The Mechanic. Fuck yeah. And of the violence in the film, there was about 15-20 seconds of lazy, sloppy choreography that sticks out like a sore thumb. The additional scenes of said struggle were very realistic however, it shifted the film into a different gear when they got certain elements of the brutality right.

I also really enjoyed the script for the most part. Even though it drags in certain places, it was pretty credible. Some of the scenes in this film felt like filler and because of the points where the film dragged, it felt overlong. If DGG trimmed this movie to an 80-85 minute run-time instead of a 108 minute one, then Undertow would have been a truly masterful film. But if you're into a film that isn't afraid to take chances and has a wholly unique style, then check this out. Undertow is a great little flick that should appeal to audiences who are looking for a slow-burn, artsy thriller that plays by it's own rules.
½ May 29, 2015
Hot little indie flick, the Hollywood ending was disappointing, but Jamie Bell does a great job as an American teenage and for a movie made on the cheap and in a hurry, the movie is well worth your time.
March 14, 2014
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
June 19, 2013
A frustrating film because of how close it is to being a GREAT film. It's ultimately dragged down by numerous lapses in logic and often pulls the audience out with some odd editing choices, particularly the freeze frames.

Alas, it adds up to an okay film.
April 3, 2013
A modern Night of the Hunter with a twist of a Charles Dickens tale and a Mark Twain. Exceptional direction & photography, brilliant cinematography, mesmerizing performances. To me, it's not a boring film, I don't know why people say that?
December 7, 2012
Looks interesting will try to find and watch!
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
October 9, 2012
For those who have seen "The Night Of The Hunter" "Undertow" pays homage to the former film. This film is a masterpiece. From the editing, the direction, the cinematography, the plot, to the poor rural landscapes of the south, "Undertow" all comes down to a shocking climax.

The plot: Chris (Jamie Bell) is a volatile teen who lives with his father, John (Dermot Mulroney), and his little brother, Tim (Devon Alan). After the death of Chris' mother, his reclusive father moved the family to a shack in backwoods Georgia, where they raise hogs. Tim has an unusual eating disorder. He is constantly making himself sick by eating things like dirt and paint. One day, John's estranged brother, Deel (Josh Lucas), gets out of prison and shows up on the farm. John is less than thrilled to see him, but agrees to let him stay with the family as long as Deel helps him look after his boys. Chris is drawn to his wild-man uncle, but it soon becomes clear that Deel has more on his mind than a family reunion. Greed and years of resentment lead to violence, and Chris finds himself on the run, towing his sickly brother along, with Deel in pursuit.

As I was watching this film I noticed the director David Gordon Green was going down the paths of raw bitter human emotions. As things began to be darker and darker, the characters is in conflict with a dangerous man (who happens to be their uncle or real father?) on the loose. I cringed each time I witness Josh Lucas as Deel who kinda reminded me of Kevin Costner in Clint Eastwood's "A Perfect World". His performance I felt was the best and the most frightening. I also seemed to cared for the two brothers Chris and Tim and the problmatic situations those two were up against. "Undertow" is a great film and a film I could watch countless times. David Gordon Green is starting to mold himself into a serious filmmaker.
½ September 4, 2012
Part of the david gordon green repertoire before he became a comedy guy, this has a very distinct 70's style, with lots of zooms and freeze frames, and music similar to films at the time, which is very well done by phil glass, it starts out slow but gets better once the plot gets going, lucas and mulroney are good, bell could be annoying but stepped up when he had to, tho that lil kid pissed me off, his whole eating subplot was stupid and unnecessary, and im not sure how to interpret the ending but not a bad film overall
September 3, 2012
boring and slow developing
½ June 12, 2012
Strange, dark and casually-paced thriller -- if you can even call it that -- in the mold of Malick (big surprise -- he's a producer). Quite unusual, but as with all of Green's films, with enough breathtaking moments to make it worthwhile. It's no SNOW ANGELS or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, but it'll do.
½ May 14, 2012
David Gordon Green's first four films had such a unique style of paying attention to characters while also giving the audience the perspective on a story that would not have normally been shared. If this would have been made by anyone else, I'm sure Lila would have been cut out or created into a bigger role, they would have focused more on the relationship of Deel and the boys' mother, and when the boys escaped it would have been tense moments left and right. However, Green decides here to avoid cliches and give the audience something new. Undertow mixes fairytale elements with realism. It's a coming-of-age story mixed with thriller. Family drama mixed with road trip. Some also call it a southern gothic film. Whatever you want to say, Green provides you with enough here. Some filmmakers would be messy mixing so many genres, but Undertow is tightly scripted, shot, and acted. Only one scene aggravates me, and that's when Deel kills John. I didn't understand why Chris just stood there. He hears his dad fighting with his uncle and he's even trying to look in through the window for plenty of time, so why doesn't he rush in and stop them? There's a good connection between Chris and John. They might not understand each other all the time, but I don't think there was ever the feeling that Chris would be okay with him being killed. This seems like there's something I'm missing for the rest of the film being so spot on. This is Chris's film. It starts out with him spending time with Lila, then being chased away by her father and while running he steps on a board with a nail. It goes straight through his foot, but he continues running. It's comedic and painful to watch. From this scene we see Chris's stubborn attitude and something deep inside him that wants to cause trouble. When asked why he threw the rock through the window, the officer asks if he's angry about something and he says no. No reason, just likes to cause trouble. He also doesn't like that his father keeps him and his brother cooped up in the house. We discover that he and his brother were taken out of school when their mother died and they live in a house away from everyone else and don't talk to anyone but each other. That's why there's problems with Chris being interested in Lila. One day, John's brother, Deel, shows up. They haven't seen each other for quite some time and John offers him to stay. The music and the way the scenes play out lets us know there's something brewing under the surface. Deel is looking for the gold coins their father gave John. John tells the boys his father got the gold coins by giving a Mexican a nickel for crossing a river, then he found a gold coin in his pocket and kept crossing the river and each time got another gold coin. By the time he got 40 gold coins the Mexican disappeared. He must be the one who sends people across the river Styx and this is the gold they drop. It's cursed. This curse plays throughout the rest of the film. When the boys flee their home Chris refuses to spend the money. He steals to take care of Tim instead of paying for things with the gold. It's great to see the interactions with the people along the way. One is a couple who wanted children but their child died because it wouldn't breast feed. My favorite of them, though, is the last girl they meet and when she explains the wish in the bottle and if it reaches the ocean it will come true, but sometimes things weigh it down and it doesn't make it. So many scenes in here are beautiful while there's the undertone of something terrible chasing them. Chris tries to take care of his ill brother while they can't be seen by many people to avoid getting caught by Deel. I also loved the way Green opens it up to make the audience believe it's a true story, sort of like what the Coen brothers did with Fargo. Undertow mixes elements from the Grimm brothers and Mark Twain, while adding in a thriller element. It's pretty amazing and definitely worth more praise than it got.
April 28, 2012
"Undertow" opens with its stalwart hero (Jamie Bell) smooching Kristen Stewart. By the next scene, (Click-click... Bang!) off he goes, trotting away from her gun-totting father. He dashes through the fields and through the woods. Way behind, the popping Pops hauls and calls the cops. When the chase caputs, the lad is caught, limping with a nail in his foot.

The runner's name is Chris. Roaming and fooling around, this kid from Georgia wants escape. He's trapped in a meager household with a staid dad (Dermot Mulroney) and a paint-eater brother (Devon Alan). His hours are humdrum, mainly hogged by minding hogs. But that's about to change when an ominous character (Josh Lucas) drops by.

His name is Deel. He reeks of danger, even before we know he just came from prison. The father says he's okay though. Deel's his brother; he's family. Therefore, he can live with them. He can take care of the boys while the dad is away.

But seriously, what is the real deal with Deel? The guy behaves so dubiously. Why did he go to prison? And why does he keep asking about some mythic coins he's supposed to inherit? Hmmm.

The movie can be pitched as a Southern gothic thriller. Deel is a villain, unafraid to use violence to get what he wants. To him, Chris and his younger brother are obstacles. They're the targets (a.k.a. the ones we'll be rooting for). But for a movie called "Undertow," there is a hidden drama gushing beneath the thriller. If one looks deeper, one might recognize that the welcoming brother might be acting out of compunction. And the criminal brother is scary, not out of malice, but of desperation. Once you get inside their heads, there's an anticipation of dread. Sure enough when the past is cut open, blood will be shockingly shed.

The most intriguing character for me is Deel. Josh Lucas provides him with a slimy, dodgy charm. Deel is not just downright shady, he's also sly in the way he redirects conversations and pushes buttons ("We're friends, right? I'm family."). It's a well-written role that elicits varying reactions from the audience. Another actor I liked is Jamie Bell. Walking barefoot and sporting a trucker hat, the English actor has come a long way from his "Billy Elliot" dancing shoes. Bell excels in these tough-it-out underdog roles. He is not a pretty boy by Hollywood standard. But the guy is a compelling actor; you'd rather read his face than admire it in some magazine cover.

The director of "Undertow" is David Gordon Green, who would release the comedy "The Pineapple Express" four years later. That film and "Undertow" differ widely in tone, but Green has a sense of locale for both films. In "The Pineapple Express," I can still picture that marijuana lair in the final act. In "Undertow," he finds odd beauty in decay via junkyards and abandoned buildings. I think he's a bold director in his own subtle ways. Like its lead character, Green runs with what he's got. I think he improvises without losing control. Sometimes he goes for the jugular by constricting us in suspense. Other times, he lets us breathe by pacing the movie in wide-eyed possibility. I sense him experimenting moods, finely tinkering moments. While I think he runs out of gas near the muddled end, "Undertow" gets a great mileage with him in tow.
April 17, 2012
Ultimately it's only an invoking superior thriller
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