When I popped in the DVD screener of COASTLINES and settled in to watch
it, I had a rather distinct feeling of
déjà vu. Although it turned out I hadn't actually
seen the movie, for the first twenty minutes or so, I really thought I had. That in a
nutshell, is my reaction to the picture. This third film in Victor Nuñez's unofficial
Panhandle trilogy (the others were
RUBY IN PARADISE, in which Ashley Judd
gave an amazing performance, and
ULEE'S GOLD, for which Peter Fonda earned
a Best Actor Academy Award nomination), is a well-acted drama but the fact that
it first premiered more than four years ago at Sundance makes one wonder why
the delay in its theatrical release.

      There's certainly potential in the tale of sleepy Florida town that is ripe for
gentrification (as John Sayles showed in his terrific
also features a love story that revolves around a sort of quadrangle (with three of
the sides having been best friends in an earlier time). Throw in some gangsters
and a couple of explosions and you've got -- well, something that is a bit messy
(not unlike life) but that doesn't really hold the audience's attention despite some
good performances.

      COASTLINES is the story of Sonny Mann (Timothy Olyphant). As the movie
opens, he is returning home from spending three years in prison on drug charges.
He took the fall for the local gangster-types with whom he got mixed up --  Fred
Vance (William Forsythe) and his nephew Eddie (Josh Lucas). Sonny ends up
living with his father (an underused Scott Wilson) while rekindling his friendship
with childhood buddy Dave (Josh Brolin), now a lawman, and pining after Dave's
wife Ann (Sarah Wynter). In the old days, Sonny, Dave and Ann were inseparable.
Then Dave asked Ann to marry him before Sonny did. So now that he's back in
town, old feelings are stirred up. Ann and Dave have a comfortable but predictable
existence complete with two young daughters. But Sonny represents something
dangerous that appeals to Ann. She's conflicted, particularly when a co-worker
(Angela Bettis) begins her own affair with Sonny.

      Sonny's presence in the town also stirs up trouble with the Vances. They owe
Sonny hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they don't really want to pay. In fact,
they try to kill Sonny by hiring a professional hitman, who succeeds in blowing up
Sonny's home with Sonny's dad in it. Of course, the survivor swears revenge and
that leads to one strand of the plot. The other follows Sonny's affair with Ann.
Eventually, the two overlap but in a high-minded soap opera style that is unusual
for this director.

      The actors struggle gamely and for the most part succeed in creating
interesting characters. It's the screenplay -- a mix of revenge drama and love
story -- that is at odds. The final result is a mishmash and is the weakest of the
three films in the trilogy.

Rating:                       C -
MPAA Rating:           R for some sexuality and brief language
Running time:          110 mins.
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.