Michael Chambers returns home to celebrate his mother's marriage. Michael had been ousted from his home town due to his gambling indiscretions and had left his wife to deal with the mess he created. He now must reassimilate back into the town, renew his relationships with his family and friends (and enemies) and, most of all, seek out his ex-wife to woo her again. In the process, he obtains a job working with his mother's new husband as an armored car driver. He almost seems the perfect prodigal son as he finds his niche back in the community and his way back into his ex's heart. His troubles surmount when he and his wife are caught in the act by her hoodlum boyfriend/fiancé. To get out of this predicament, Michael must concoct a plan to heist of a payroll being carried by his armored car company. Written by
Joel Schesser <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Not allowed to co-sign the screenplay with his name for legal reasons, Steven Soderberg used the name "Sam Lowry", the anarchist character played by Jonathan Pryce in Terry Gilliam's Brazil. See more »
Ex-con and recovered gambler Michael Chambers returns home to Austin, Texas to attend his mother's wedding. He looks up the girlfriend that he walked out on many years prior, immediately causing problems with her criminally-inclined boyfriend. When his new father-in-law helps him get set up with a job driving an armoured car, things begin to look better for Michael but his desire for Rachel remains, sparking a cycle of events that run out of his control.
Working almost like a test bed for things he would do better later on, this film allowed the director to try various techniques and styles that didn't really work for him in this case. The plot unfolds in three different time periods are the same time, we are helped out by Michael having a beard in the earliest time periods. The point of these was to create a history for the characters and help keep the interest as we went by not knowing the past until it is significant (a trick he did again in Out of Sight). However here the characters are painted so flat that it's hard to notice any difference in them between the time periods. Also the actual past is quite straightforward and sheds light on nothing of real significance. This stalls the film for the majority and it only really gets going again towards the end, but even that is killed by a series of little twists that culminate in a final shot that simply doesn't make sense and was clearly a cheap way of ending the film on a dramatic note.
The direction is OK but perhaps a little heavy on the style. Constant shots through coloured glass makes it all look very clever but it doesn't add anything. At first I thought it was to help distinguish time period (all the armoured car stuff looks green) but then I realised he was just doing it when the mood took him. In Traffic, the emphasis on colour worked well between the three stories but here it just feels like a director trying too hard.
Gallagher is an OK actor but can't do much here to shed light on the character. We know that Michael is blessed with poor judgement but beyond that he is a mystery that even Gallagher seems incapable of getting in touch with. Elliot is pretty but also a flat character. The support cast is interesting as it has plenty of well known faces including Fichtner, Dooley, Baker and Shue but really the weakness at the top is the problem here.
Overall this is watchable despite it being a little slow and too stylish for it's own good. The overriding impression I got from watching it was that Soderbergh was trying out some ideas to work out what the weaknesses with them were. Add to this a quite straightforward story that is told in three timelines for no discernible benefit to the film and then a cheap series of dramatics when all else fails and you've got a film that doesn't tend to get mentioned in the same breath as his more recent hits.
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