Josh Lucas is an excellent actor, he can be, he aspires to be, but when he stars in crap like “Stealth” and “Glory Road”, he really continues to stay a footnote on the end of audience’s memories. But then he stars in films like “Undertow”, and you feel saddened, as I did, wondering: If this guy can give such a horrifying performance here, why can’t he take those talents and put them to good use? Lucas’s performance as a menacing uncle is basically on par with DeNiro as Max Cady, with Robert Mitchum in “Night of the Hunter” thrown in for good measure. That’s just about all there is to it.
Upon his arrival in his black hot rod, you just know the familial discord is about to get so much more complicated, and no words are needed, nor is narration. Lucas’ face says it all to the audience. “Undertow” is a wonderful murder mystery about the price of greed, and the way money can easily tear apart relationships that were once thought solid. It’s said that when a child dies, instantly the bonds of a husband and wife are put to the test, and if they break up it’s because they’re relationship was never solid, put money in between two best friends, or two brothers, and you’ll see how strong a relationship they have had.
“Undertow” is neo-Hitchcockian in its ways, as we watch many relationships crumble under the spirit of aimed wealth, and the reach for that Maltese falcon while the bodies mount. “Undertow” is an engrossing mystery about two boys who live with their dad (Dermot Mulroney, who again proves he’s very underrated) on their farm whittling the days away, until Deel arrives. And then the film becomes relatively darker and menacing as Green alternates between whimsically dreamy to gritty and menacing. The film then delves deeper as a journey for two boys to keep their lives while trying to find a way to take the evil that ruined their lives and use it to help them.
For, as their father had told them, the gold which they have is evil because greed tainted it, and it’s further practiced in their fight for life, and their uncle’s search for them. “Undertow” does tend to get bogged down by the second half as Green really seems to have lost all material and focuses on new characters, and different plots involving the boys and their acceptance into a gang of “Lost Boys” whom have their own basic land and keep them hidden from their uncle, and it loses all touch with its actual plot alleviating the suspense and tension present in the first half and becomes completely lost with its point. Lucas is all levels of devious and horrifying with a set of mutton chops and bushy mustache and the gleam of a man who isn’t quite right with himself.
When you venture deeper into the origin of his sudden arrival into the lives of his family, you understand, yet you still feel the urge to run. Green’s film is less about murder, and more about two boys struggle to maintain their relationships and not have the gold they have in their possession ruin that, while the story becomes a metaphorical glimpse into violence, loneliness, and desperate redemption from a life of unfulfilled dreams, and unresolved conflicts. In spite of the fact that the wheels come off at the climax, “Undertow” is a tense and entertaining murder thriller about redemption and greed with excellent performances by Bell, Mulroney, and Lucas who shows he’s capable of giving great performances if he knew how to choose a film.