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Doesn't really work
bob the moo24 May 2003
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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when I think about trying with you again, I have no idea if it's a moment of strength, or a moment of weakness.
Ben Larson22 April 2011
Not really noir, as it is in color, so we can call it neo noir and be done with that.

Michael (Peter Gallagher), the prodigal son, returns home for his mom's wedding after being exiled for some past trouble. The flashbacks throughout the movie show us what happened, but it really doesn't matter.

What matters is the fact that he takes up again with his old flame, Rachel (Alison Elliott), who is now married to a local hood (William Fichtner), a fact she neglected to tell him.

To get out of trouble with the hood, he agrees to do an armored car robbery. His own brother (Adam Trese) suspects him.

One of director Steven Soderbergh's early works, it will not blow you away, but it will entertain you.

I suspect the ending will leave you furious.
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Competent first half with disappointing payoff
youdontsmellbad27 May 2001
I saw this film as a part of a school course on film appreciation, focusing mostly on film-noir. It built slowly with a fascinating story, and honestly I was intrigued by many of the sequences especially the scene where the main character watches the football game and the rendezvous under the bridge.

I was also interested in all of the supporting characters like elizabeth shue's role and the smarmy brother.

The action toward the end built up to a climax that would bring it all together. And, the most I could say for the climax was that it did. But it also spiraled into a conventional, predictable, and altogether disappointing ending. I walked away unhappy with the whole experience.

This was the first time I was disappointed with Soderbergh's work, so for a more satisfying experience, in a similar genre, see The Limey.
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Not too good.
Keno2731 May 2004
With two sets of flashbacks, count them two sets of flashbacks interspersed throughout the movie the last one catching up to where the movie begins in the present, it just makes a garbled mess. Kind of like the last sentence.

I like Peter Gallagher and Elizabeth Shue, but she had such a small role and he couldn't save the convoluted mess that movie just seems to be told out of sequence like it is.

The cinematography is nice if that's any consolation! I bought my copy at Walmart for $5.50 and I can't honestly say I'll ever watch it again. I can't recommend it, but I won't condemn it either.
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Underrated Soderbergh
craigjclark31 May 2001
A complex character study with a twisty-turny plot and more double-crosses than one can comfortably shake a stick at, "The Underneath" is definitely one of Steven Soderbergh's more complex films. He pulls out all the stops, using split lenses (particularly during one bravura dinner sequence), different color film stocks, imaginative framing devices -- you name it. Sure, one might complain that the result is cold and calculating, but I'm not that one.

Fans of Soderbergh's "Schizopolis" will recognize Mike Malone (T. Azimuth Schwitters) as the guy who attempts to hit on Allison Elliott in the club and is rebuffed, and David Jensen (Elmo Oxygen) as the satellite dish installer. ("Just don't stand in front of it.") And Joe Chrest -- so memorable as Ben the bellhop in "King of the Hill" -- is great as the mysterious Mr. Rodman.
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Well made suspense
Steven Soderbergh always has interesting things to say about small Texas towns and the film The Underneath is one of his more interesting and articulate. Peter Gallagher stars as Michael Chambers, a gambler who returns to his small rural town for his mother's nuptials. While in town he tries to reignite an old flame with his ex-girlfriend, Rachel, but this leads to more problems than she's worth. Michael finds himself in a dangerous situation when Rachel's fiancée, Tommy, played by the hugely underrated William Fichtner, finds out about Michael. The Underneath has all of that familiar indie Soderbergh feel that is complete with suspense, mystery, ambiguity, and characters whose personal issues go far and beyond what the normal person living the normal life is used to.

The Underneath is a slow moving film that starts out seeming fairly pointless at first. But as it develops it grows more and more interesting. The noir-ish atmosphere combined with Soderbergh's tense cinematic style keeps this film quietly engaging. For a while it feels like a film that doesn't have much purpose and seems to be pretty straightforward. The first half of the film follows Michael as he tries to rebuild his relationships with all the people he abandoned years ago when he lost a substantial amount of money while betting. He tries to rekindle his love with Rachel, tries to make his mother happy with him again, and tries to keep his brother from hating him. The first half of the film holds no surprises but raises interesting questions and keeps you around waiting for more.

Then comes the second half of The Underneath where things really kick off and it shapes into the film that it had set out to be from the opening suspenseful tone. The mystery builds and we become innately fascinated by what is going on. The plot twists and turns right up to the very last shot which throws the entire story for a loop. It's great filmmaking and excellently engaging storytelling on an intriguingly small scale. There's nothing flashy about The Underneath, but that's what one should expect from Soderbergh.

I wouldn't say that this is a film for everybody, but fans of Soderbergh would be foolish not to check it out. It's a film with a great story, a compelling atmosphere, an consistently suspenseful tone, a good script, and decent acting. I don't know that there's much more that I could want from this fine little film.
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Road to nowhere
paul2001sw-17 June 2003
These days, Stephen Soderbergh has a reputation as a director capable of pleasing arthouse critics and mainstream fans alike. Personally, I'm unconvinced of his claims to greatness even now; but it's certainly clear, whatever its absolute merits, how "Underneath", which dates from 1995, is lacking in slickness compared with the director's subsequent works, which it nonetheless resembles in form if not in competence.

Basically, this is a bank-heist thriller, but shot in a very tricksy style. To list a few of the devices employed, we get colour-filtered lenses, flashbacks (confusing because the main character has a big grey beard in the chronologically earliest scenes, and thus looks younger when supposed to be older), disjunctions of speech and image (used more successfully four years later by Soderbergh in "The Limey"), edgy-camera work, contrived (though sometimes powerful) scene-framing, and the pseudo-documentary time stamps that flash up on screen almost at random. In fact, it's less of a mess than the length of this list suggests; but it never seems natural. The viewer always feels that he is being set up. What is not clear is why.

The real problem is that it is very hard to care about any of the characters. Soderbergh hints at motivation, but fails to follow through. One could argue that the film is trying to be intelligent, leaving the viewer to fill in the gaps. The problem here is not that this is difficult (except at the very end) but that it happens too often - there's more gap than substance, the script plays with itself instead of fleshing out. With no real insight into human nature here, the end result is not so much bleak as pointless.

There are many worse, more stupid films than this. But trying to be clever does not in itself make a great movie. These days Soderbergh does clever without trying. Whether that makes his recent work better, or simply better-disguised, is an interesting question.
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The remake of "Criss-Cross" Is Not As Good
zardoz-135 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Director Steven Soderbergh has made his share of good and bad movies. "Erin Brockovich," "The Limey," "Traffic," and "Sex, Lies and Videotape" qualify as classics. On the other hand, the popular "Ocean's" trilogy, "Full Frontal," and "The Informant" lay at the bottom of the scrap heap. Mind you, Soderbergh has made several in-between movies that are neither memorable nor excruciating. The sci-fi saga "Solaris," the Elmore Leonard crime thriller "Out of Sight," and the surreal European art flick "Kafka" are his in-between movies. Essentially, they are above-average but flawed. The same can be said for "The Underneath." The most palpable theme in "The Underneath" is taking responsibility for one's actions, something that the protagonist has a problem with in his relationship with his family, his girlfriend and chief villain. Ultimately, Soderbergh draws us into the story with his surreal staging of the action so that "The Underneath" resembles an art movie.

This remake of director Curt Siodmak's "Criss-Cross" (1949) with Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea, and Stephen McNally comes up short of several accounts. First, "The Underneath" lacks the star wattage of the 1949 original. Second, Soderbergh doesn't handle the film noir half as well as Siodmak did. In "Criss-Cross," we knew all the characters were doomed, but they were sympathetic. In "The Underneath," the Peter Gallagher protagonist is not only unsympathetic but he also lacks credibility as a character. Alison Elliot doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what Yvonne De Carlo conjured up with her character, and William Fichtner cannot hold a candle to slimy Dan Duryea. Scenarist Sam Lowry (a.k.a. Soderbergh himself) and Daniel Fuchs have changed several things, but they remain largely faithful to the original, except that the Stephen McNally cop who was the hero's friend has been turned into the hero's brother with a gay subtext. Rather than striving to save his brother from himself, the hero's brother wants to do everything that he can to bring down the hero. Nevertheless, "The Underneath" still amounts to an above-average opus, with a neat twist of an ending that salvages this muddled but entertaining heist picture.

Peter Gallagher plays never-do-well Michael Chambers. He has come back to his hometown, Austin, Texas, that he left an unspecified number of years ago. At one point, he says that he worked in the oil field. Principally, Michael left town because he owed too many gambler debts. Eventually, Michael squares himself with the people that he owed money to and he returns to find that his girlfriend Rachel (sexy Alison Elliot of "The Spitfire Grill") has taken up with a night club owner and small-time hoodlum, William Fichtner of "Armageddon") who is green-eyed with jealousy about Rachel and Michael. Meantime, Michael has come home ostensibly to attend his mother's wedding. Mrs. Chambers (Anjanette Comer of "Rabbit, Run) is scheduled to wed Ed Dutton (Paul Dooley of "Death Wish") and Michael's brother David Chambers (a mustached Adam Trese of "Laws of Gravity") hates his brother because he is selfish. Moreover, he doesn't like the idea that Michael is decked out in one of his dead father's outfits for the wedding. Rachel isn't exactly overwhelmed to see Michael, too. She hated the way that he disappeared and everybody went to her looking for answers. Initially, Michael doesn't plan to stick around long, but his new stepfather arranges for him to interview for a job at an armored car business where he works. The owner of the armored car company, Clay Hinkle (Joe Don Baker of "Walking Tall"), likes Michael and hires him.

Michael is taken by surprise after he goes to work for the armored car company when Rachel vanishes and returns with a ring on her finger and Tommy Dundee as her new husband. Dundee is a volatile sort of fellow and he doesn't like it that Rachel is hanging around Michael. Michael makes Tommy an offer that Tommy cannot refuse. They are going to knock over an armored car and Michael plans to be at the wheel when this happens. Tommy makes arrangements for an unknown, mysterious figure to provide the men. This source demands 20 per cent of the haul, but Michael informs Tommy that he will receive his share and the others can fight over the rest. Whereas the raid on the armored car in "Criss-Cross" occurred in broad daylight in a parking lot, Soderbergh and his writer orchestrate the action in a basement in the bank. During the hold-up, Michael is wounded but he thwarts the villain. Basically, after he gave a van load of hoodlums the access code to enter the underground facility, Michael runs into Susan (Elizabeth Shue of "Adventures in Babysitting) in the basement as the crime is about to take place and shoots it out with a group of thugs who rode a white van into the basement. Michael is wounded terribly, but he manages to survive. Moreover, the owner of the company praises him as a hero and plans to put a story about his exploits into the company's magazine.

Soderbergh cuts back and forth between the past—Michael as a gambler with a beard, the present—Michael as a security guard for the armored car company. The hospital scene exemplifies Soderbergh's knack of artsy cinema. Further, Soderbergh doesn't develop the atmosphere of the setting here as interestingly as Siodmak did in the original. Initially, everybody talks to Michael, but we cannot see Michael until later. Soderbergh has altered the film noir heritage of "The Underneath" so that fate doesn't destroy basically misguided people. Peter Gallagher is good as Michael, but he is no Burt Lancaster. At one point, another character—his wholly suspicious and unlikeable brother-- compares Michael to a woman because he has tried to skate through life with other people doing the work for him. The predictable part of the movie is the heist itself and the moral is clear: crime does not play.

"The Underneath" is more provocative than good.
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Muddled Re-Make Of 'Criss Cross'
ccthemovieman-18 September 2006
I read somewhere where this film was supposed to be a remake of the 1949 film noir, "Criss Cross." I found the latter to be disappointing but it was still better than this film.

This movie is a "neo-noir" since it's modern-day and it's in color, two things that purists would make it be disqualified for film noir status.

The biggest negative to it, however, wasn't the cinematography (that was fine) but the muddled storyline. Hey, some of '40s Dashiell Hammett stories were similar but I didn't care for some of those either. The filmmakers here did not help the situation by placing flashbacks into the story what seemed like every three minutes. No wonder it was the keep up with this story. It was ridiculous! What happens is that by the 45-minute mark, their is so much confusion nobody cares anymore. I know I didn't.
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Soderbergh, so dem good. (possible spoiler)
alice liddell12 June 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Of all Soderbergh's great masterpieces, this is probably nearest to THE mighty LIMEY. Both feature conventional noir plots - in this case a tale of love triangles, double-cross and a bungled heist - which are tinkered around a little chronologically. Nothing too demanding - we catch our bearings early on; the shifts in time serve more to explain rather than complicate the present (although the titles indicating different times are hilariously inappropriate, referring to a vacuum) - compared to MURIEL say, this is a breeze. Mercifully so, because the last third abandons chronological trickery altogether, and allows the beautiful plot mechanics to foreground themselves..

Soderbergh, confusingly, has been called an extreme formalist and a realist. Like Chabrol, he is both. This film is exquisitely stylish, but the style is anchored in character. The overlapping editing, the drenching of key scenes in dusky blue or green (very Sirk), the meaningful camera angles and movements, the distanced compositions alternating with privileged close-ups, are all beautiful in themselves, but also relate to the characters, the emotional lava bubbling under their impassive exteriors, their terror of repeating crippling past mistakes, their sense of paralysis, humiliation, wild desire; their increasing awareness of entrapment and betrayal; the underneath.

The final third of UNDERNEATH, especially the hospital sequence, is as good as 90s cinema got, and is an expert fusion of style and emotion, an encapsulation of all the film's themes, about appearance and reality, the need for, and the failure of, communication. Peter Gallagher comes into his own here, wiped off the screen, his charm and good looks obliterated, as if beginning yet again; but the past, as it invariably does throughout the film (and this is the real meaning of the time-switching), comes back to haunt him.

The film is a remake of a classic Siodmak film noir, and despite its plausible modernity, is faithful to the genre, essaying the decline of a passive young man, who leaves his fortunes literally to chance. Chambers just drifts through the film - any action he takes is negative and evasive, and he ends it crippled, vulnerable, prone, abandoned. The nominal femme fatale, though, is anything but. Soderbergh's analysis of relationships is always uncomfortably piercing, and he shows relationships destroyed, even at their seeming strongest, by solipsism. After the mental and physical abuse she has suffered throughout and before the film, we cannot begrudge Rachel her final duplicity.

Like THE LIMEY, though, and most of Soderbergh's films, UNDERNEATH's realism is questioned throughout. On at least three crucial occasions, we find Gallagher asleep, and we must ask how much of the paranoia-soaked plot is dreamed, feared, remembered, fantasised by him; the ultimate loss of masculine control his gambling is only a symptom of.

Of late, Soderbergh has become a great director of the American outdoors, but this film, set largely indoors, partakes of SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE's claustrophobia. This is in keeping with one of Soderbergh's main themes, the family, its potential as source of support in an alienating world, its reality as a metonym for corruption and betrayal. The family relationships in this film are marked by rupture, corruption, abuse, neglect. The one hopeful couple, Chambers' mother and his new boss, inspire such negative, humiliating Oedipal feelings, it's no wonder Chambers might dream of having him bumped off. The frightening, enigmatic (self-cancelling?) final twist only compounds his irrelevance.
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There is nothing underneath.
gridoon13 May 2004
Soderbergh's showoffy stylistics (color filters, flashbacks, first-person point-of-view shots) try - and mostly fail - to "spice up" a cliched and insignificant plot. Don't bother looking for anything fresh in this movie, it's the same old drifter-back-to-his-hometown / femme fatale / dangerous husband / heist-gone-wrong / last-minute-betrayal storyline. Peter Gallagher's detached, almost catatonic approach seriously affects the movie, but Alison Elliott shines playing the most complex by far character in the film and William Fichtner impresses even in his completely stereotypical bad-guy role. (**1/2)
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Who cares?
George Parker14 August 2003
"The Underneath" tells of a man of dubious character who returns to his home to a less than warm reception and becomes involved in a web of intrigue with money and a woman at the center. This film is good technically and artistically. Good but not great. And there the goodness ends. We're fed bits and pieces of a story involving the elements of corruption, jealously, conspiracy, robbery, murder, betrayal, and more. However, the characters are so superficial and mechanical and the film so clinical and rigid we're left to idle disengaged voyeurism. With no emotional involvement we, the audience, have nothing at stake, have invested nothing in the characters, and don't care how it ends. We're just glad it's over. (C+)
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an excellent remake
$thing22 March 2000
An excellent Austin, Texas remake of a classic film noir. Steven Soderbergh is without question the best director of his generation with his perfect sense of timing and absolute control of style. No two movies could be more different than Soderbergh's "Schizopolis" and this "Underneath", but the common thread is an admirable taste for everything cinematic. An absolute must see.
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Weird & twisted thriller/drama
Eugenia Loli12 May 2005
I find 'The Underneath' to be a 'weird' movie, and I don't mean 'weird' in a good way. It's weird in a negative way, it just doesn't make sense in some parts, like the stranger in the hospital, or the hidden agendas of everyone in this movie.

I think the scriptwriter wanted to make this a cool-twisted thriller, but it came out as a mashed up incoherent drama.

Peter Gallagher was good and William Fichtner even better, but they were not enough to save this movie from being boring and incoherent. Too bad Elisabeth Shue didn't have more scenes and we didn't get to see more of Adam Trese's character which left more questions than answers.

I suggest you watch this movie only if you have nothing better to do.
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A dreary movie - do not waste your time.
Ron Reynolds30 July 2003
This is a slow dreary movie. The main characters are unappealing and Peter Gallagher in the main role produces, in my view, a wooden performance. Best moments are the brief appearances of Joe Don Baker and Elizabeth Shue who both have a real screen presence.
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Good, interesting thriller.
Lucien Lessard26 February 2009
A charming drifter by the name of Michael (Peter Gallagher) returns home for his mother's wedding. But he decides to see his ex-girlfriend (Allison Elliot), which his feelings for her are unchanged. But his ex-girlfriend is seeing a small time gangster (William Fichtner), which he doesn't like it at all. Michael's stepfather (Paul Dooley) offers him a job to be a security guard to transport money to various banks. He decides to risk his job by making a deal with the gangster, if he could get his ex-love back in his life. But his passion turns into obsession and no one can be trusted.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Kafka, King of the Hill, Out of Sight) made an intriguing, suspense thriller with a sharp performance by Gallagher. Soderbergh has an eye for visual style and some suspenseful moments. Since half of the movie is told in flashbacks. It was very little seen by the public and film critics, when it was release in 1995. Like some of Soderbergh's earlier work, "The Underneath" has a small loyal cult following.

The DVD has an good non-anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) transfer and an fine Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The DVD's special features are the original theatrical trailer, cast & filmmakers' bios and more. Fans of Soderbergh's work will enjoy this movie best and especially those who enjoy movies with flashbacks. But the film does takes its time to know the characters, it keeps the viewer interested and it is certainly worth a look. The director also co-wrote the script in a different name. Panavision. (*** 1/2 out of *****).
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Boring movie with few highlights
HunterDK25 May 2002
Yesterday I watched "Underneath", and my expectations were pretty low.

I had seen that it had 6,5 here on IMDB, so I thought it was worth watching. The story is a bit confusing, sometimes you are in the past and in other scenes you are in the future. I think it could have been made better, but it doesn't change the fact that this movie was made with a lot of flashbacks, you could only see it was a flashback because Chambers had beard.

The story is a bit interesting, and the cuts with past/future make sense after 70 minutes, but it's too late. You have lost the interest, and just hope the movie ends. Anyway the end was interesting, and it saves the movie from being a disappointment, but "Underneath" can't get more than 5/10.
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How to "flashbacks" to confuse instead of explain.
dewey2216 November 1999
This is better than an average movie with excellent acting. The thing that keeps this movie from being excellent is the way the director uses flashbacks. We found our selves having to stop the tape and try to figure out if the next scene was current, history or future. For instance a greenish cast is used to show a flashback and then in a present time, the scene is photographed through a greenish window at first. Peter Gallagher is shown without a beard and later shown with a greying beard.I thought that the scene was in the future. Not so, the scene went backwards in time with no explanation as to the greying beard??
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Peter Gallagher as a Petty Crook
gavin69428 March 2017
A recovering gambling addict (Peter Gallagher) attempts to reconcile with his family and friends but finds trouble and temptation when caught between feelings for his ex-wife and her dangerous hoodlum boyfriend.

I have seen the original movie ("Criss Cross") and rather enjoyed it. Possibly, this film is even better. I find that hard to say, because you really can't beat the classic noir, but Peter Gallagher is a powerful lead. The Soderbergh script is a little odd in the dialogue department, but at last he doesn't go full David Mamet. (Not to knock Mamet, it's just not very natural.) There are intriguing twists and turns here, and no one is purely good or evil. That, really, is what makes for the best noir -- the cast of seedy characters who can never be trusted, even if we (the audience) want to love them.
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Soderbergh does art-house noir crime drama
SnoopyStyle11 September 2016
Michael Chambers (Peter Gallagher) returns home for his mother's marriage. Michael had left town due to his gambling addiction. His wife Rachel (Alison Elliott) was forced to deal with the fallout. His mother's new husband gets him a job as an armored car driver. He reconnects with his now ex-wife. Her boyfriend Tommy Dundee (William Fichtner) spies them making out. Tommy is angrily possessive and Rachel wants to escape. Michael gets pulled into a robbery of the armor truck.

The flashbacks are mostly a waste of time. The color saturation is an attempt at art-house. The basis of this is the film noir crime drama. Soderbergh does it as a character study at first. I keep comparing this to Blood Simple (1984) where new filmmakers Coen brothers try their hands at noir crime drama. They were able to work the style successfully whereas Soderbergh seems more interested in working around the genre. As a whole, the movie lacks the needed tension and the characters are not that compelling to me.
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An Early Soderbergh Film
Predrag9 May 2016
The film screwdly portrays the hero as a witty, angst-ridden nihilist surrounded by other nihilists (Tommy D and the hero's ex)who are one, and two, steps ahead of the hero, respectively (of course the Joe-Don Baker figure is three steps ahead). The unpretentious psychological depths of the film are one of its strongest features: Michael wears his Dad's suit to his mother's wedding, misuses the word "divorce" for marry" with respect to his mother. The homely, trite, but nevertheless tender relation between the mother and her new husband is a wonderful counterweight to Michael and Rachel's wicked (though much sexier) egotism. Settled age, age that has seen its limits, lived a lot, and wants the pleasures of company and routine are counterpoised to Rachel's cunning, calculating, perverse ambition. The brother figure - brilliantly acted - is an alternative to Michael - for he is dutiful to his mother and law-abiding. And yet, he also simmers with plots, and secretly envies his brother's bad-boy charm, good looks, and way with women.

The film's first 10 minutes are confusing, but once you get hold of the style it flows pretty smoothly. The Underneath actually gets better as it goes along building to a climax that stays within the established rules of a film noir but is brilliantly realized by director Soderbergh. This is a movie that brilliantly weds selfishness with our common existential yearning for more and more possibility. It is a morality tale to the extent that it shows how destructive can be the pursuit of total ego-gratification, but it shows us this without also denying that Mom's tranquility and comfort in old age consists in a vacant stare into the television, hoping to win the lottery. A watered down form of the same despair her son expresses through gambling, irony, and deceit.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10.
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A stylish and well-acted neo-noir
Red-Barracuda26 July 2014
A compulsive gambler returns to the town he fled years before on account of bad debts. He quickly hooks back up with an old flame who is now married to a local hood. Before long he finds himself involved in organising a big money heist.

I get the impression from other reviews that this Texas neo-noir from director Steven Soderbergh doesn't have too good of a reputation. This is something that surprises me somewhat and is a sentiment I cannot get behind. For me, this was a well-directed and well-acted crime film with an interesting structure and a bit of style to burn. Its story is told in three different time-lines that dovetail for the final section. The flash-backs and flash-forwards are effective in creating a tension that ensures we want to find out how everything fits together. Not only this it always looks interesting too, with unusual framing and stylized lighting often used. This emphasis on the visual works well for the neo-noir sub-genre and here is no different. Peter Gallagher is very good in the lead role, in a character that isn't terribly sympathetic, while Alison Elliott was equally good as the woman he reacquaints himself with. Pleasingly, the film ends with a finale that neatly wraps things up in a satisfying and unexpected way.
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Apathy, Obsessions & Toxic Relationships
seymourblack-18 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Steven Soderbergh's highly enjoyable remake of the 1949 film noir "Criss Cross" is a story about a group of characters whose interactions have a critical bearing on the outcome of a planned heist. The deceptions, betrayals and double-crosses involved complicate the already tense relationships between them and provide the basis for a variety of plot twists that ensure that the action never gets dull. The presence of a non-linear narrative, dramatic close-ups and shots within which the main protagonist is seen framed within a confined area, are all faithful to the classic film noir style and the inclusion of some strong colour sequences, not only identifies the time spans being depicted but also contributes to the movie's off-beat atmosphere.

In "The Underneath" an apathetic drifter whose life has no orthodox focus finds that the resultant void within him is occupied by his most powerful obsessions and it's these obsessions that determine the directions that his life takes. Michael Chambers (Peter Gallagher) was a compulsive gambler who, in the past, ran up enormous debts that led to him having to leave is home and wife in Austin, Texas. Some years later, after having squared up all his debts and given up gambling, he returns to his hometown to attend his widowed mother's wedding.

Michael's return isn't welcomed by his brother David (Adam Trese), who's a police officer. He despises Michael for not being around when his mother needed him most and also for not turning up for his father's funeral. David is also secretly hooked on Michael's ex-wife Rachel (Alison Elliott) and is resentful because he anticipates that Michael will try to rekindle his relationship with her. Rachel, who is now involved with a local nightclub owner and small time gangster called Tommy Dundee (William Fichtner) is extremely bitter about the circumstances under which Michael left and the problems that she subsequently had to face alone.

Michael's future stepfather Ed Dutton (Paul Dooley) helps him to get a job as a driver in the armoured car company where he's employed but Michael's attention soon becomes concentrated on getting back together with Rachel. She's initially hostile to any reconciliation but later gives Michael some encouragement and they meet in secret. On one of these occasions they're discovered together by Tommy who's an insanely jealous psychopath. In order to extricate himself from an extremely dangerous situation, Michael quickly invents a story about a proposal to steal a large consignment of money which is due to be transported by his company. Tommy agrees to take part in the robbery but things don't go according to plan and after the heist, the number of betrayals and twists that follow bring events to a surprising and fascinating conclusion.

Peter Gallagher successfully conveys Michael's consistent indifference to the feelings and needs of those who are closest to him and also portrays his character's selfishness and self-destructive nature very effectively. Alison Elliott draws a clear distinction between Rachel's personality as it was before Michael's enforced departure and the more embittered person that she became later. The supporting cast are also very good with William Fichtner making a particularly strong impression as the extremely violent Tommy.
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an interesting update
domhowe1 September 2006
This movie is an updated version of the Burt Lancaster/Yvonne DeCarlo movie "Criss Cross". When viewed with that in mind I think the movie's production values really show off Soderberg's experiments with style in a much better light. The hospital sequence is more understandable, and the character's actions are better explained when viewed with the knowledge of the 1949 morality of the original. The casting was really well done, and Soderberg achieved the seediness of life on the edge of legality, and the pitfalls of blind love.

The story is perfect film noir, and seeing updated stories like this makes you long for other directors to go back to that well and update other gems such as John Garfield's "Force of Evil", and director Robert Wise's "Born to Kill".
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LeonLouisRicci7 October 2012
Another ultra-slow film from the master of ultra-slow films (Solaris, Contagion). This overrated Director is once again showing how to take a classic like Film Noir's Criss Cross (1949) and covering it with neo-nothing.

Here his "stylized" cinematic turns are so glaringly intrusive that it does nothing but draw attention to the fact that the film is a yawning yearn for yesteryear.

A sympathetic feeling for modern moviegoers that take this stuff as serious cinema when it reveals itself to be nothing more than frivolous fluff with ideas that go nowhere (notice all the lottery references). Oh get it...that's suppose to be some sort of subliminal reference to the struggling lower middle class and their unattainable utopia. But never fully brought home, this is indicative of the kind of artsy "insight" from a wannabe, near-sighted visionary.
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