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This was a pleasant surprise. I really didn't know what to expect, but what I got was a very intelligent movie with more than enough twists and turns to keep things rather unpredictable. It took a little too long to get everything set up properly, and it perhaps had one twist too many, but overall, it was a great film with strong performances by Alessandro Nivola and Reese Witherspoon. Definitely worth checking out.
I just picked Best Laid Plans up at the video store simply because there was
nothing that looked better. Well, even though this isn't a great film, it
was probably better than all those other videos in the store that
Best Laid Plansd is a dark crime thriller about Nick (Alessandro Nivola) who needs to raise some cash urgently to pay off some mob debts. He enlist his girlfriend Lissa (Reese Witherspoon) to seduce an old college buddy, Bryce (Josh Brolin), out of his cash and to cry rape. However, things do not go to plan when Bryce takes Lissa hostage and asks Nick for advice on what to do.
Director Mike Barker has really gone for the Tarantino side of filmmaking, which he does impressively. Surprisingly, Best Laid Plans is actually better than some of the Quentin Tarantino projects, including Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown. It is more intriguing and clever than those two films due to an excellent screenplay and some really good performances; particularly from the rather unlikeable Alessandro Nivola and the stunning Reese Witherspoon.
Not faultless, but perfectly watchable and recommendable.
I rate Best Laid Plans 7 out of 10.
When I decided to see the movie, I didn't expect much of it, not more than a level of an usual Saturday night entertainment. But to my surprise, the movie, which first appeared to be a usual sentimental love story, evolved into a decent thriller. Directing is very good at this point, characters are quite "fresh", especially the drug dealer with the knowledge of the theory of economics. Actors also do a good job, especially Reese Witherspoon, although she doesn't get as much screen time as Nivola, her presence can be felt. The plot has some very unexpected turns, which make it very good, and the script is also above average. I give it 7/10, not a masterpiece, but some good entertainment.
Screenwriter Ted Griffin takes a page out of the David Mamet book with this
story of the things we do for love and money, and how desperation has a way
of leading even the most forthright among us into regions beyond the known.
And the fact that there is no such animal as a sure thing is pointedly
expressed in `Best Laid Plans,' a drama/thriller directed by Mike Barker,
and starring Reese Witherspoon and Alessandro Nivola.
The film begins with a meeting in a bar between Nick (Nivola) and Bryce (Josh Brolin), old college chums who have not seen one another since graduation. Over a few rounds of drinks, they get reacquainted; Bryce is back in town to teach, while Nick has secured employment at the local recycling establishment. They do the good-to-see-you-again thing, and Nick leaves. But at about two o'clock in the morning, he gets a call from Bryce, who begs him to come over to his house (actually one he's watching for some friends who are out of town). Nick doesn't want to go, but Bryce sounds desperate and he can't refuse. What he finds when he gets there is something totally out of left field. Suffice to say, it involves a young woman named Lissa (Witherspoon), whom Bryce picked up in the bar just as Nick was leaving. It's not a pretty situation, and Bryce doesn't know what to do; so it falls to Nick to figure it out. And now, having crossed that proverbial line in the sand, Nick's involved, too. Or so it seems. But then again, maybe there's more to this than meets the eye. There's just something about this whole set-up that instinctively tells you that what appears to be, ain't necessarily so. The question is, what is it-- and who is doing what to whom exactly?
Barker has fashioned a fairly involving film from a story that initially seems somewhat convoluted, but which evolves, and later can actually be regarded as having a plot that is quite intricate and credible, making the comparison to Mamet entirely valid. The difference between this film and one of Mamet's, however, lies in the fact that Barker simply doesn't have that Mamet touch when it comes to presenting the material. He does a decent job, but lacks the finesse, the eye for detail and the grasp of what it takes to achieve that necessary sense of mystery that could have taken it to a much higher level. It lacks that sense of fear and menace, and the urgency it needed to be really effective. Barker does manage to give you enough to sustain interest, but his pace is wanting; there are moments when the pulse of his film simply flatlines.
Nivola is clearly the star of the show, and his performance is passable, but he lacks that extra something, that quality, that would have made his character anything special or memorable. Nick is believable, but too common; there's simply nothing distinctive enough about him to make you care much what happens to him one way or the other. On one hand, it's good acting-- the character is real-- but he's a guy who leaves you fairly nonplused; he needs a hangnail, as it were, a flaw that would have at least made him interesting.
Witherspoon gives a good performance, but this character is certainly not a stretch for her, by any means. Lissa, like Nick, is rather nondescript, and Witherspoon does little to spark much interest in her. In her defense, however, Barker really doesn't afford her the time nor the opportunity to do much exploring by way of characterization. But she is watchable, and fans of hers, especially, will no doubt find her work here satisfying.
As Bryce, Josh Brolin is disappointing, giving a one-note performance that is flat and forced. Granted, his character is supposed to be something of a nerd, but he puts nothing into it; a bit of nuance would have done wonders for his portrayal, and it's the kind of character that is ripe with opportunity, like a blank canvas just waiting to be shaded and textured. But Brolin dropped the ball, and Bryce ends up being completely forgettable.
The supporting cast includes Gene Wolande (Lawyer), Jonathan McMurtry (Vet), Rocky Carroll (Bad Dude), Jamie Marsh (Barry), Michael McCleery (Recycling Owner), Michael G. Hagerty (Charlie), Terrence Dashon Howard (Jimmy) and Sean Nepita (Freddie). A very average movie, but with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting, `Best Laid Plans' nevertheless comes off as inexplicably lackluster, given the storyline. This one had the potential of being a real edge-of-your-seater, but instead fails to stir the blood much at all. Performances aside, the story alone makes it worth a look; just don't expect too much. It takes some effort to get into it initially, and by the end you'll be reflecting on what a great movie this `almost' was. I rate this one 6/10.
Long live Mike Barker! This fairly fresh feature director has pulled off
of those rare tributes to the film noir scene, which once coloured the
scene in the past. There have been worthy efforts, but this one seems to
have it all right. The movie starts as most movies from Mike Barker start.
Circumstances found as in the traditions of working class realism found in
the films of Ken Loach and the novels of Alan Silitoe, colour the first
couple of scenes. The story starts with a scene in which is explained that
Bryce (Josh Brolin) has 'accidentally' raped a minor. He calls his old
university buddy friend Nick (Nivola) to help him out. At this moment the
story rewinds to 4 months earlier and we can peak in the history to see
this problem started. Nick has just lost his father, found out he doesn't
get any money, and works at a recycling plant. He than engages in some
criminal activities, which turns horribly sour and he ends up owing 15,000
dollars to a local criminal. Now, that's all you need to know about the
storyline, there are so many plots and twists that even the most critical
movie fan would be impressed by the surprises that are being thrown at
The last time I experienced such a feast, was during the Usual Suspects,
that is quite a compliment.
Reese Witherspoon (Lissa, nick's girlfriend and the 'raped' minor) pulls off one of her more impressing acting roles since 'Freeway' Although a bit more constraint than her role in Freeway, her presence definitely enriches the movie. Allessandro Nivola (Nick) will await a big future. His nonchalance acting and worried looks, will make him the perfect actor for sub-blockbusters. Finally one of his bigger roles after movies such as Inventing the Abbotts and Face/Off. Josh Brolin is less appealing, but even he is not bad enough to ruin this movie.
Mike Barker continues his strong line of work, after The James Gang in '97. And in a sort of way, this movie resembles his previous to some aspect. In both movies poor families take center stage, and in both movies they are resulting in criminal activities because of the financial trouble they are in. Barker is definitely one of the most artistic directors around (up there with Scorsese), but one wonders if he doesn't overdue it a bit sometimes. Even these minor negative things can't make me change my mind that this is a great movie, cinematic wise, with a well written script, that the characters are well thought out and acted, and that Barker has proven himself once more that he is a major talent. Bravo!
Like the title might suggest, I'm sure there were some great ideas behind
this movie, but they got lost trying to come together. It's a fairly
watchable thriller for most of the running time, mostly due to Nivola and
Witherspoon giving muted performances. But the problem with this kind of
thing is that it just isn't clever enough to really outsmart the audience.
It isn't necessarily that you know what's coming, but the fact that you know
SOMETHING is coming, some kind of twist, that it has to be pretty off the
wall to take you in. Unfortunately, here the movie plunges into farce and
it's a let down after an often tense, and well calculated
Still, Nivola is always nice to watch :-)
In brief this film should have done better than it did. The cast are
good, the cinematography is very pleasing. The sets and costumes are
The soundtrack is also pretty good.
Really good story that improves the more you watch it. At least you will think a little bit during and after the film as so many situations are raised.
Makes living in small town America look pretty desirable. Also makes you think about the people you grow up with.
Give it a shot!
This is basically an idiot-plot movie. It is a succession of forks in the road for various characters. At each fork the character is offered two or more choices. One is normally by far the easiest, sanest, and most obvious choice, which would almost certainly remove him from harm's way, and of course, end the movie. The other is the choice only an idiot would make, putting him into even more trouble, and of course, allowing the movie to wallow along until the next choice. Some of these choice scenes fall out of the sky, never being set up in the slightest, making the story-telling crime far worse. In the scene in the rich guy's house, there are innumerable choices which would resolve the situation. All are ignored by the characters. They actually work at making the situation worse so that they can then make the idiot choice. This is a movie clearly written by a very young man. How do I know this? Because young writers, particularly young men, for reasons known only to them, worship the plot device where coincidences combine. It is acceptable in story telling to have coincidences, accidents, and pure bad luck drive the characters into worse and worse trouble, but never to get them out. In this movie, these coincidences at time do both. How do the bad guys know that the good guy will be driving his car past a point where they all just happen to be lying in wait? Only because the screenwriter said so, that's why. And it's idiotic. And the fire by the road? What's that about? It could have been an effective setup for a final, and very satisfying twist, but it wasn't. This was clearly a low-budget movie and they either spent a lot of money on all those fire trucks and police cars or the local government threw them in to have a movie shot in their hick town. Either way, it was a huge amount of set up for no payoff. And finally, the director disease. He should pay more attention to his characters and less to his camera. If you are going to plant your actors on a rotating platform so that they and your camera can continually rotate 360 degrees, thereby spinning the room, you should do one of two things. Either have the actors saying dialog so compelling that the spinning room goes unnoticed, or have them saying no dialog, so that the spinning room has some meaning. Otherwise you have the audience wondering what the heck is going on. And if you're going to have a door looming in the foreground, constantly moving, either assign it some significance or have a grip hold it still. There was no fancy camera angle left unexplored in this movie. Unfortunately there was a lot of story, character, and motivation also left unexplored.
Lissa (Reese Witherspoon) accuses Bryce (Josh Brolin) of rape, and then
the film unfolds in interesting ways as we see how Nick (Alessandro
Nivola) plays a part in her past and their future.
The film relies on the universal desires for love, sex and money. Bryce just wants to get laid, Lissa pretty much just wants love but Nick wants both love and money. His plans to get that money get in the way of other dead-end criminals also wanting money. As the film's title suggests, no plans go quite as according to plan. The various twists in getting the plans foiled weren't particularly ingenious but they were well done. I never quite knew what was coming next, but I always wanted to find out. A crime drama thriller with some crimes but minimal violence, and although it seems a bit slow there is enough intrigue to keep the suspense level, or at least interest, up.
"Best Laid Plans" stars three great actors at the beginning of their careers, and each proved why they have become the respected-stars they are. I recommend it to fans of crime drama thrillers and to fans of Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, or Alessandro Nivola.
"Best Laid Plans" has invited a lot of comparisons with "The Usual Suspects", but with its caper-plan-gone-awry storyline it reminded me more of "Palmetto" - except that it's not as good as either of those films. The whole set-up is rather laborious, and the payoff, while clever, doesn't really amount to much. Ultimately, this is a very unexceptional movie; you can easily find many of its equivalents in the "crime" section of your local video store. What makes it worth your time are the performances; Nivola, in particular, has an engagingly laid-back presence and Reese Witherspoon is good as usual. (**1/2)
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