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BEST LAID PLANS

USA, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Mike Parker

With echoes of the Coen Brothers' debut, Blood Simple (1984), Best Laid Plans is a noir-ish entanglement of lust, betrayal, theft and murder. At all times it remains a film about the perception of events, reality generated and maintained by the characters' personal version of events. An opening sequence depicts a couple of college chums rehashing old times over drinks. Soon after, one of them is knee deep in trouble, with the threat of rape charges and his entire career in jeopardy. In flashback, events leading to the fateful night are reconstructed, the audience brought up to date and then directed toward the electrifying conclusion.

With nods toward classics of the genre like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, Mike Barker's film settles on its own pace delivering serpentine twists at key points to throw expectations off balance and reinforce his notion that all is never as it seems.

Nick languishes in a job at a recycling plant in the nowhere town of Tropico. His attempts to get out of debt and his career rut result in bitter disappointment. Meeting Lissa (Reese Witherspoon, Freeway, Pleasantville, Cruel Intentions) is the only decent thing to happen to Nick since his father's death. When he foolishly volunteers to act as wheel man in a drug ripoff, he winds up oul of his depth and in deadly debt to a local crime baron. Nick's solution to his predicament is complicated, precarious and possibly lethal, but his only way out

Barker's cast is further enhanced with the inclusion of Josh Brolin (Flirting with Disaster, Mimic, The Mod Squad) and Rocky Carroll of TV's Chicago Hope as well as Crimson Tide and The Great White Hype. Barker has crafted a suspenseful and cerebral modern morality play that stays true to its purpose to the very end.

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