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A smart, entertaining movie
Tito-87 September 2000
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.
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Surprisingly good.
Morfeus Ivanovich7 January 2005
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.
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Finally a worthy tribute to the film noir scene. Bravo!
Porter-521 May 1999
Long live Mike Barker! This fairly fresh feature director has pulled off one of those rare tributes to the film noir scene, which once coloured the movie 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 how 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 you. The last time I experienced such a feast, was during the Usual Suspects, and 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!
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Where's Mamet When You Need Him?
jhclues19 February 2002
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.
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sibisi739 January 2002
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 build-up.

Still, Nivola is always nice to watch :-)
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Good, Underrated Cinema.
flickjunkie-37 January 2001
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 day!

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.
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Not for everyone, good dark comedy.
TxMike15 April 2002
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS - Note to self: Boyfriend gets suckered into being the driver for $40,000 drug heist, turns out to be fake, all were in cahoots to get $20,000 of his inheritance to help pay college tuition, inheritance was actually zero, thinking he was really in trouble he and girlfriend (Witherspoon) attempt to pull off heist of pardon signed by Abe Lincoln, that goes awry, friend (Josh Brolin) drags and ties Witherspoon in basement of house he is sitting for, boyfriend pretends he smothers her, carries her out, car is highkacked, he eventually discovers the scam. But they leave town together, broke, but maybe wiser.

The writing and nicely convoluted story are clever, no one really gets killed, or even harmed. However lots of bad language. Glad I saw it, being a fan of Witherspoon, it is always interesting to see what she does with a role. Josh Brolin is also excellent.
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A hidden surprise
capedmarauder28 July 2005
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 great.

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!
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some problems with the plan(s)
SnoopyStyle16 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Bryce (Josh Brolin) reconnects with old friend Nick (Alessandro Nivola). Then he calls on Nick for help. He had drunken black-out sex with Kathy (Reese Witherspoon) who claims to be underage and threatened to call the cops. Bryce shows Nick that he had tied her up down in the basement. Four months earlier, Nick first met the girl who eventually becomes his girlfriend Lissa. He expected a big insurance payday after his father's death but instead he loses everything. He gets involved with small time hood Jimmy (Terrence Howard) to steal $40k from (Rocky Carroll). It goes sideways and Nick needs to come up with $15k as his share of the heist. Bryce is back in town housesitting and shows him a special Lincoln stay-of-execution note. He comes up with a plan to steal the note without Bryce reporting it.

The turn back to the past sucks away some of the cool neo-noir vibe. This could have worked as a stylish three person play. Brolin is overacting a little and Nivola is a bit too stoic. The acting is OK and it's set up for something cool. Then the story adds in a twist. The big problem is the motivations for the twist make no sense. If Nick had the money, he would never do the job. There isn't any reason to scam him. The guy is begging to be paid at the job. Barry must have heard about it since Nick apparently tells him everything. How much money could Nick have in the bank? Even Nick's plan is questionable. I'm not sure what Bryce would do after finding the note missing. That part of the plan seems very dubious and I would think the stolen note would eventually land back on Nick. There are too many questionable plans going on here.
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I wanted to like this film. Really. I tried.
skibbleyboo6628 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I failed pretty miserably, though.

On a whim, I found this movie, having never heard of it, took it out, and popped it into the DVD player. It started. Intriguing premise; two friends at a bar, one meets a girl, statutory rape... It's all there.


Alright... fine. Usually this kind of "start at the end" turns me off; after all, I know the ending already. And, having read the back of the box before placing the disc into the player, I've got a pretty good idea of how the first hour or so is gonna play out.

Boom. I was right. Surprise, surprise.

Then we come back to the flashback scene, this time in real time, and continue on to the end of the movie. Insert a few gratuitous sex scenes wherever you please; the love side story doesn't really contribute a whole lot to the film, and can more or less be ignored. It's nice that you love each other, but every other movie has a main couple too. Yup. Every single one.

But wait! "What would a bad movie be without the random incoherent plot twist at the end?" you may be asking yourselves. And this one comes in on spades. Suddenly people supposedly dead ... aren't! And other people who seem to be drug dealers who stole your car and your girl... are really pretty nice guys! And suddenly every conflict that the main characters have vanish - in the face of poverty, of course, because love always wins out over money - and they ride off into the sunset as the credits begin to roll.

No, I'm not kidding. The only saving grace of this film is the main theme, which is actually pretty awesome. Save yourself an hour and a half and just watch the DVD menu for a bit. You'll get the same experience I did.
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Contrived, convoluted, but somewhat watchable
Dennis Littrell27 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)

This mostly forgotten thriller starring Reese Witherspoon (Lissa) and Alessandro Nivola (Nick) suffers from a mightily contrived plot and a "Huh?--What happened?" ending. Nick is a guy who works at the local recycling plant (that's a new workplace for celluloid protagonists) who is about to inherit some big bucks from his father who has just kicked the bucket.

Meanwhile some of his coworkers are scheming up a plot to...well, no spoilers here. Let's just say that the viewer does not find out about this plot until the end, and then it seems a little...well, lame.

Along comes Lissa looking mighty fine and they fall in love, although I must say the chemistry certainly didn't spark up the screen. Now comes complication number one: the old man blew almost all his money and what he didn't blow the IRS is grabbing. Because of this Nick gets tempted into driving a get-away car for a drug rip off... Things go awry and Nick ends up in deep doo-doo, and in desperation gets Lissa to help him rip off an old school chum...which... Well, what these people do in desperation is a little on the unbelievable side.

I'm sorry that's all vague, but at least it's enough information to let you know if you actually saw this movie or not. Now, if you like probability-challenged, convoluted plots with loose ends and a lot of unlikely twists and turns, you might find this movie interesting. And if you like Reese, and you should, you might also find a reason for sticking around until the end. I know I did. She does a good job and looks good doing it.

Bottom line: although the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, it can also be said that the most meticulously contrived plots sometimes turn out about as convincing as pseudoscience. Incidentally the title is a paraphrase of the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns's line: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft a-gley."
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Clever, but leaves you wanting more.
gridoon26 October 2003
"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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Middle of the Road
Shawn Watson19 June 2001
The only reason I watched this is because my girlfriend threatened me to. This is movie is sooo desperate to be a post modern crime thriller that it looks and feels so relentlessly superficial.

Most scenes are decked out in unpleasant pastel colors and interiors are always lit with warm lights. It's nice to look at but has a student filmmaking feel to it that distracts me.

Something else that is quite unreal is the scene in which Nivola and Witherspoon discuss their forthcoming crime...on a roof in front of a neon sign on a sofa. people keep sofas on roofs in front of neon signs. This was obviously an attempt by the director to add a little sparkle to an otherwise BORING scene. Which is also the reason he throws in some cliched camera angles. It's a "film noir" you diagonal shots on an ordinary scene are standard.

Composer Craig Armstrong was obviously hired at the last minute when the director heard the score for Romeo and Juliet to provide a superficial (that word again) soundtrack. It sounds like it belongs in a totally different movie. But perhaps this is a good thing. There isn't much theme but the music does evoke some weird feelings from us. Much like the feelings the characters have. It's cool and I wish more scores were this way.

The "twist" wasn't too obvious to me. Once it occurs it takes away all the tension and stress right away and will relieve you big time. It even manages to change the tone of the whole movie to light-hearted.

In case your wondering my girlfriend lists this as number 2 in her top 3 movies. Number 1 is Devils Advocate and 3 is Moonwalker...ugh!
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Ultimately disappointing.
wetwork-229 April 2001
This could have been a good movie, there were strong performances from Reese Witherspoon and Alessandro Nivola. However, Josh Brolin was a bit weak and unconvincing. In addition, the script was convoluted and improbable, which sunk the sinking ship for me. Zipp0 rating of 4/10.
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A Pitiful Excuse For Noir, A Pitiful excuse of a movie.
Mordecai-210 September 1999
What a shame that someone decided to make this movie. It attempts to be clever, it attempts to be deep, and it attempts to be dramatic, but fails on all counts. The director attempts to make a poor mans Usual Suspects, with a suspensful opening, including a extreme close up on a cigerette starting a fire. We think it will play into the evil plot further down the line. The characters are then shown close to the end of the story and play out a few of the scenes. They then cut back to the beginning. We are supposed to put together a puzzle. The movie's puzzle starts out interesting enough, but by the end we are left with a cop out. A weak ridiculous ending where there are no consequences for the actions taken, a happy hollywood fairy tale. And the cigerette imagery at the opening, barely plays into the plot at all. An excuse to put a cigerette starting a fire at the beginning of a movie. Suffice to say, this movie sucks. The performances of the actors are intelligent and well played.
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A crime drama thriller with minimal violence but intrigue in place of the suspense
napierslogs18 January 2011
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.
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Not exactly believable
pninson25 October 2004
On the plus side, this movie features some terrific performances, especially by Reese Witherspoon. (I'm a fan.) On the down side, while it tries to be a clever film-noir a la "Usual Suspects", its story doesn't bear scrutiny.

The first time I saw this, I was fooled by some of the tricks and surprises, but having just watched it a second time, it seems obvious and hardly believable. I found myself thinking, "Would anyone really do THAT?"

"The Usual Suspects", for all its faults, can be watched three or four times, and you still feel a frisson of surprise as the story turns itself inside out and back again. I sometimes think that there really is no point to it, but at least it's entertaining enough so that few viewers care. "Best Laid Plans", on the other hand, suffers from a lack of credibility that ultimately ruins it for a second viewing.

However, the two leads are likable and the production values are strong, so it's worth a spin, at least.
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Terrific story, good directing, mediocre acting
FlickJunkie-25 March 2000
I really enjoyed this film noir story about hopeless people taking desperate measures to try to wriggle out of the trouble wrought by their bad luck and foolish acts. Ted Griffin's screenplay is first rate with numerous unexpected plot twists and ironies. I defy anyone to outguess all the curves he throws. What is noticeable about the plot is that it was very realistic. The schemes were hair brained, but it was believable that the numbskull characters portrayed would cook up these kinds of cons.

Mike Barker's direction was very good. He was visually daring and unconventional with liberal use of tight shots and extreme close-ups that were mostly effective. He was a little too enamored with these techniques though, and used them to excess. Such shots are good to emphasize certain emotions or to add impact, but Barker has the viewer in the actors' faces more often than your average teenage lovers. After a while the whole film has the feeling of watching characters with giant heads. Yet, this is a minor criticism for what was mostly a very good directorial effort.

The weakest aspect of the film was the acting which was mediocre though not terrible. Alessandro Nivola gave a lifeless performance as the hapless Nick desperately scheming for a way out of his small town. He came across too wimpy and flaccid for the daring character who was planning this elaborate rip off.

Reese Witherspoon was mostly window dressing in this film. Though she did a reasonable job with her character, the part did not have much meat to it as she was relegated to the role of sycophantic girl friend, a victim of her own weakness and bad judgment.

Josh Brolin was the weak link. His interpretation of his character's emotion is mostly measured by how loud he yells at the camera. Since his character was in hot water through most of the film, he was mostly screaming his lines at the top of his lungs. His portrayal was like surgery performed with a chain saw.

The best performance of the film goes to Rocky Carroll as the intimidating drug dealer who threatens to kill Nick for swiping his money. Carroll stole every scene he was in with high energy performances.

Overall, I gave this film a 7/10. The acting was not compelling but it was not so dreadful that it detracted from a terrific story and a well crafted film by Barker.
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Pretty well Laid
pluto-1112 May 2001
Real, real good. Everyone did well, Reese, Allessandro, Josh and particularly the writer, Ted Griffen and director, Mike Barker.

The key to movies like this (a good example would be "Usual Suspects" and "Blue Velvet") is to be plausible and provide twists that really shock you: it passed on both counts. Plausible means that the story, environment, and acting all fit. Check, check, and check. I was definitely surprised by the plot twists and didn't call any of them.

Directing is key in film noir and Mike Barker did OK. I guess if I have any complaint is that there wasn't any strong stylistic force that I could detect. One of my favorite films in this genre was "Blue Velvet" - I think this film could have come close to this level if it had the same level of style that Lynch was able to spin into the experience of "Velvet".

I join those who predict Allessandro Nivola to become a major recognized talent. I really enjoyed his performance in "Mansfield Park" as well. Josh Brolin was a convincing College "Friend"/Asshole. I had to laugh at the end of the film - I knew people like him in college too. I don't understand the comments that indicate that Josh was weak here, I completely bought him in the character. Reese Witherspoon, well, she just can't be bad - at least I haven't seen it if she has been.
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Not brilliant but distracting if you ignore that it should have been better in several areas
bob the moo2 April 2006
Having met his old buddy Bryce for the first time in years for a drink, Nick gets a call from him in the middle of night asking for help. He goes to Bryce's place where he gets told that Bryce pulled a girl that night, took her home, started messing around and then had sex. However immediately after sex the girl says that she is going to the police to tell them that she was raped. Bryce then takes Nick downstairs where he has the girl tied to a billiard table to prevent her leaving. The two men try to work out what they are going to do, but are things what they seem?

Opening with an interesting set-up, this film jumps back in time and immediately undoes itself with a plot that is interesting but not as good as it really should have been. The plot follows the fall of Nick as he needs more money to cover firstly the dreams he has and then the problems he gets into when he tries to get the money by crime. Essentially this film could have been a mix of Tarantino, Mamet and Usual Suspects twists but it falls short of any of those targets but still manages to produce a reasonably good drama with elements of each. The plot isn't as good once it jumps back four months although it still has enough movement to keep things going. The twists are not that great and the plot itself doesn't make as much logical sense as it would like to think that it does. Nor is it as clever as it would like to think – the small town America was well painted but the work on the characters was not as good.

Nivola leads the cast well with a nice performance of subtlety even if the material isn't always there for him. Witherspoon walks the film rather easily with a simple role that only really gets interesting towards the end. Of the rest of the cast Brolin is OK, Howard makes a solid appearance and generally everyone else turns in solid performances. It was a film that I felt the characters could have been more important and better developed but they were still good enough for the cast to work with.

Overall this is a fairly typical thriller with a twist. It seems to want to be a bit like Tarantino with the dialogue edge of Mamet and the twists of things like Suspects but it doesn't really get close to any of them. Still, it produces an engaging thriller that, although not original, is distracting at least.
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Excellent thriller, that's quite suspenseful and tense, with some great plot twists, and top notch performances!
callanvass26 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent thriller, that's quite suspenseful and tense, with some great plot twists, and top notch performances!. All the characters are awesome, and the story is really good as well, plus Reese Witherspoon is simply amazing in this!. Alessandro Nivola is fantastic as the main lead and had excellent chemistry with Reese, and Josh Brolin plays the irritating prick of a professor extremely well, plus It's very unpredictable throughout. It's also nicely old fashioned, and it's very well written and made, plus the ending was completely unexpected, as I absolutely loved it!. One part that was quite tense and me cringe was when the main villain(Terrence Howard), spays pop up a guy's nose, and you are able to care for Nivola's and Reese's characters because you know there both good people and need to do this to get out of a bad situation, plus it's a great film/noir film as well. This is a true underrated gem in my opinion, and it's also quite creepy at times as well, plus It's also quite clever as well. This is an excellent thriller, that's quite suspenseful and tense, with some great plot twists, and top notch performances, and I say it's a must see for everyone!. The Direction is excellent!. Mike Barker does an excellent! job here with awesome camera work, very good angles, adding creepy atmosphere and keeping the film suspenseful and at a very fast pace. The Acting is top notch!. Alessandro Nivola is fantastic as the main lead, he is extremely likable, had excellent chemistry with Reese, and was very intense in some scenes, I have never seen him In anything before, but he was fantastic here, I loved him!. Reese Witherspoon is amazing as always and is amazing here, she is stunningly gorgeous, is extremely likable, had fantastic chemistry with Nivola, was incredibly sweet, as she is especially good in the opening segment as that was a real intense one, she was just a normal down too earth type of woman, and was very believable! (Reese rules!!!!!!!!!!). Josh Brolin is extremely convincing as the prick of a professor, he was very irritating and only cared about himself, I hated him, he was really good. Terrence Howard is good in his scenes as the villain, and was quite menacing. Rest of the cast are fine. Overall a must see for everyone!. ****1/2 out of 5
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modern noir
blanche-226 October 2015
I kept looking at the young woman and thinking, she looks like a fuller-faced Reese Witherspoon. Turns out it was Reese Witherspoon - I hadn't looked at the cast list.

The film begins with Nick (Alessandro Nivola) and his college friend Bryce (Josh Brolin) in a bar. A young woman walks by, and you can see Bryce checking her out. Nick leaves, and while he's asleep, he gets a panicked call from Bryce. The woman has threatened to call the police and claim rape. Bryce has tied her up and duct taped her mouth because he's terrified and doesn't know what to do.

Eventually the film flashes back to an earlier time. When his father dies, Nick assumes his father will leave him a lot of money which will help him get out of the one-horse town in which he lives. Unfortunately, his father died and left him with nothing as he was $240,000 in debt to the IRS, plus other debts.

When he gets an opportunity to make some real cash by stealing money from a drug dealer, Nick agrees. Somehow the dealer finds out he's involved and has him picked up. He tells Nick if Nick pays him back, he'll forget about what happened. Nick is frantic to get the money since he no longer has his cut.

Pretty good noir with good acting. Someone here commented that Alessandro Nivola is dull. I liked him because he played the character as if he was capable of anything.

Not a stretch for Reese Witherspoon; the other people were fine.

I liked the film, I thought it was well done, and I like that certain things were revealed in the beginning. I loved the scene where the commercial for the recycling place came on television, and Nick is so desperate to get Bryce's back to it. Very funny.

In better hands, this could have been a blockbuster. But it's still good.
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Academics in Noirland
hammy-319 May 1999
Go see this movie; it hasn't got particularly hip dialogue or trendy references or self-reflexivity; just a really original plot in which two academics find themselves thrust into an ostensibly horrifying trust-free underworld through their own greed. If it wasn't for the word "academics" this would be a typical Noir plot - herein lies the film's originality. It's well directed and acted and has a sure sense of location, and it's probably the only movie you'll see this year in which a black hoodlum explains Adam Smith's theory of consumption while torturing a victim.
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Refreshing and new.
Nikki-3318 May 1999
I too went to see this film with no idea about the plot etc. but I was pleasantly surprised! It's got everything in it... I will not go into detail because it will spoil the enjoyment but there are loads of twists and turns. Happily there is a boy meets girl scenario but the ending is quite ambiguous and their are parodies of stuff you have seen before eg., threatening gangsters. So, it turns out that it contains elements of different genres in a new way which makes it refreshing to watch something unique, in a way. Reese Witherspoon is her usual bubble-butt self but this time with a few principles and more mature. Allessandro (Face/Off) is VERY attractive in it (I don't expect blokes out there to give a s**t)and is more complex then face value. 'Bryce' is a dim-wit which makes us sympathise with the others - am I giving too much away? Quit while I'm ahead.... Wicked!
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Waaay too elaborate plans
Zoopansick26 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
There are some spoilers, if you care

This movie is one of those where it starts off kind of cool but slowly gets more and more far fetched and loses my interest. I think it would have been a lot cooler if for example the entire movie took place at the mansion and featured only the 2 friends and reece and focused on them playing off each other without letting the audience in on who is trying to screw who. Well I digress that was not to be. Instead it was a classic case of characters setting up elaborate plans to get what they want and making stupid decisions and keep getting themselves in further trouble. The actual plot centers around the character Nick who involves himself in a one time drug scheme and becomes increasingly desperate for money when the plan goes awry. I won't give too much away here (as invariably someone will find this clever) but I will say that I found it really stupid that not ONCE did Nick ever consider going to the police, even when his life was threatened. I realize he might get in trouble for his one time role as a "driver" but it would still be better then being DEAD. I guess why call the police when you can *deep breath* hatch a scheme to steal antique civil war money signed by Abraham Lincoln at the house that your old college buddy is house-sitting by getting him drunk and tricking him into thinking that he raped some 16 year old girl (who is actually older then 16 and your girlfriend) and then "murdering" her so that she won't go to the police and get her uncle to try him for statuatory rape. Really when you think about it, it's almost too easy. There are a few twists, the first of which was easy to spot, the "big one" at the end actually had the effect of being a let down. You know the movie you are watching isn't that great when even though it successfully pulls off a twist you don't care. To me the ending seemed to be a rather convinient way of ending the movie. I guess movies aren't always supposed to be realistic, but for a film like this to work it must create situations that will at least allow me to suspend my disbelief, that was not sadly the case with this (possibly direct to video) Blockbuster Video staple.
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