Directed by: David Gordon Green | 107 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, Devon Alan, Kristen Stewart, Robert Longstreet, Terry Loughlin, Eddie Rouse
Undertow is set in the south of the United States. A calmly progressing drama is set in beautiful atmospheric images and colors. John Munn is a hardworking single father and taxidermist. He has two sons, Chris and Tim, and lives with them in the middle of the woods on a remote farm, where he keeps pigs.
When the film starts we see how Chris throws pebbles at a beautiful girl’s window. But the stones he throws are a bit too big and before he knows it he has to run for his life when the girl’s father chases him with two guns and a Dobermann pincher. The movie starts off very strong. During his flight, Chris jumps into a long rusty nail that goes right through his foot. You literally feel the pain that follows that jump through you, you see him limping further with the plank nailed to his foot. He is arrested and his father picks him up from the sheriff for the umpteenth time. Brother Tim’s birthday is no longer celebrated. Later, the family is unexpectedly confronted with the arrival of John’s brother Deel. This one just got out of jail. Deel still has an old account to settle and is clearly the “bad guy” necessary for this genre of films. Part can stay as long as he lends a hand on the farm and keeps an eye on the brothers.
Part has actually come to claim its share of the inheritance. John says he doesn’t have it. In a fight, Deel’s thirst for revenge strikes and the family is shattered. The two boys just managed to escape death and flee with a bag of gold coins that their father has hidden. Part is injured, but give chase, target is the bag of gold.
The two boys make their way through the country and a world opens up for them full of adventure, but also danger. During this flight, the film has a number of side steps that apparently have to build in a resting point and give new developments to the story, but which do not always come across as convincing. The characters that are then introduced do emphasize the stereotypes and clichés about the southern states.
They feel the hot breath of Deel on their necks all the time, and they have to look very carefully for food and shelter. Chris and Tim eventually come into contact with a group of hippie-like young people who have withdrawn to nature and live on the fringes of society, just like they themselves. In this new world Chris meets Violet with whom he bonds. It doesn’t take long for the two brothers’ violent legacy to knock on the door again. Violet protects Tim and Chris while provoking Deel to an ultimate showdown. For lovers of the southern states there is a lot to enjoy in ‘Undertow’. The film starts strong, but halfway through it starts to lose a lot of its tension and then looks for a number of developments in side paths that do not benefit the story.