Best Laid Plans

          As this film began, I had that vague feeling of unease and became
  convinced that I was in for another ill-conceived caper film that, while
  providing fodder for its stars to "Act", would devolve into predictability.
  Well, I can honestly say that I wrong! While there was the occasional lapse
  (more about that later),
BEST LAID PLANS had me guessing up until the
  end. Just as I was certain I had a handle this postmodern
noir, the writer
  and director took a unpredictable turn -- and then another. Eventually, I
  found myself just giving over to the film and enjoying the ride.

BEST LAID PLANS begins with a frantic call from a bespectacled,
  buttoned-up college professor (Josh Brolin) to an old buddy (Alessandro
  Nivola). Seems the academic got himself in a jam and needs help from his
  pal. When the friend arrives at an impressive mansion, he finds a young
  woman (Reese Witherspoon) chained to a pool table. The professor explains
  that he had picked the girl up in a bar and after having sex, discovered
  she was underage. When the girl threatened to report him to the police,
  the professor handcuffed her and called for help.

          Once this flimsy premise has been established, the real fun begins.
  In flashbacks, it is revealed exactly how these three have managed to find
  themselves in such a predicament. To reveal too much of the plot would
  spoil the fun; suffice it to say that things and people are not always what
  they appear to be.

          As in any good
film noir, there's the two-bit loser (Nivola), a
femme fatale (Witherspoon). But as this is a pomo-noir, there's no place
  for a world-weary detective. Instead, we get the academic (Brolin). Yet,
  there are crosses and double crosses. Director Mike Barker working from
  Ted Griffin's script (adapted from his own short story) manages to maintain
  an appropriate level of tension, aided strongly by the atmospheric lensing
  of Ben Seresin. The film only bogs down slightly in the early scenes
  in which the premise is being established.

          In what is essentially a three-hander (although Rocky Carroll offers
  a fine turn in a small but pivotal part), Josh Brolin is saddled with the most
  difficult role. As a rich preppy type cut off by his parents and caught in a
  career-threatening situation, he is called upon to emote at a level of
  hysteria that would defeat nearly any actor. Once he ratchets it down a
  notch, he settles in and delivers a strong performance. I will admit that
  I was not all that impressed with Reese Witherspoon but following her fine
  work in
CRUEL INTENTIONS and especially ELECTION, I have come
  to admire her pluck and capabilities. In this film, she adds yet another
  fine characterization to her growing body of work. Alessandro Nivola
  previously has demonstrated his craft in showy supporting roles (like
  Nicolas Cage's brother in
FACE/OFF). As this marks one of his first
  leading efforts, he proves more than capable.

BEST LAID PLANS is breezy and entertaining, a fine thriller that
  marks a promising debut for director Barker and should help vault its
  leading players to the next level of stardom.

Rating:                B+
MPAA Rating:        R
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.