Now in his late 70s, this film is a likely end of the line for director William Friedkin. It also feels like an end of the line for all the Neo-Noirs made after the Coen Brothers’ BLOOD SIMPLE/’84 displaced old-school noir revival pics like BODY HEAT/’81 . . . but it’s probably not. Here, the story is one of those triple-cross murder-for-hire tales where a debt-ridden, thick-headed slacker botches up an easy-money inheritance plan; with a rumbling undertow of violence that erupts for a bloody climax. Adapted from a 1990 play by scripter Tracy Letts, it must have felt fresher on stage at the time. Friedkin works hard to jazz up his presentation, and, with the exception of Juno Temple as a thick-tongued virginal temptation for Matthew McConaughey’s unyielding hitman, he pulls out some smart perfs from his cast. Especially Thomas Haden Church, who finds his own rhythm & a laid-back wit to show how this cuckold crumbles. But Friedkin won't live within the limits of the material, asking lenser Caleb Deschanel to dazzle us with every shot, which only makes the basic material look as threadbare as the trailer-park furniture these lowlifes collapse on.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Sidney Lumet’s last pic, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD/’07, was also a Neo-Noir, and a darn tasty one.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: McConaughey got the easy showy role and the money reviews on this one. But he sure was gosh-all-mighty careful about what he showed! Watch his big back-side scene. Has anyone ever stood quite so awkwardly nude to keep from going frontal. What a tease.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: After his seriously underrated SORCERER/’77 tanked with audiences & critics, Friedkin never regained the striking audience rapport he’d found on THE FRENCH CONNECTION/’71 and THE EXORCIST/’73. He’s been chasing that lost connection ever since, a poster boy for not trusting your own instincts. His new auto-bio, THE FRIEDKIN CONNECTION, seems fitfully aware of the problem.