Thursday, February 25, 2010

Underrated Movie #45: One False Move

A week of movies by black folks about white folks, and/or white folks about black folks.

Title: One False Move
Year: 1992
Director: Carl Franklin
Writers: Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson
Stars: Bill Paxton, Cynda Williams, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Beach

The Story: Three drug dealers pull off a violent heist in L.A. and head for Arkansas. L.A. police detectives are one step ahead of them and head east to await their arrival with an unsophisticated small town sheriff.

How it Came to be Underrated: The distributor, IRS, wasn’t around very long and the movie didn’t get much of a release, but it became a sleeper hit on vhs.

Why It’s Great:

  1. Most first-time screenplays have the same problem: everybody talks the same, or, almost as bad, likable people talk one way and unlikable people talk the other way. Everybody here has a unique voice, black or white, cop or criminal, and each one of them has at least some humanity and inhumanity inside them.
  2. This screenplay follow the two best rules for writing believable dialogue: “People only want what they want” and “Nobody listens to each other”. It’s hard to hold yourself to those rules. You have to know everything about your characters, all of their history and hopes and dreams, but then you have to remind yourself that your characters won’t ever understand those things about each other (or even about themselves, half the time.)
  3. Like Thornton, Franklin had been an actor. He followed this with a petty good big-budget noir, Devil in a Blue Dress, but he hasn’t done much since, which is a shame. His directing is classically suspenseful without the dreadful stylistic flourishes that would overwhelm the genre once the Tarantino-wannabes took over.
  4. The violence in the first scene is shocking, but it’s not gratuitous. That’s the scene that rolls the rock uphill: we know what the killers are capable of and we wait with mounting tension through a series of nail-biters, fearing that it’ll happen again and searching everywhere for another way out.

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: After they became bigger stars, Thornton and Paxton re-united for another great big-city-criminals-menace-a-small-town thriller, A Simple Plan.

How Available Is It?: It’s on dvd and available to watch instantly.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Bypass to Otherness!

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