Posts Tagged ‘Mike Colter’

Evangeline Lilly, Jason Sudeikis

“SOUTH OF HEAVEN” My rating: C (Glenwood Arts and VOD)

120 minutes | No MPAA rating

Thanks to the awards magnet known as “Ted Lasso,” 2021 is going down as Jason Sudeikis’ year. Not even a misstep like “South of Heaven” will change that.

What we’ve got here is a multiple-personality crime yarn about an ex-con who gets caught up in ugly (and wildly improbable) events.

We first meet Jimmy (the KC-reared Sudeikis) at his parole hearing in a Texas prison.  He tells the board that after serving 12 years of a 15-year sentence for bank robbery, he’s ready to return home and nurse his childhood sweetheart, who is dying of cancer.

“Lasso” fans may be struck with deja vu.  Jimmy has more than a little in common with the Kansas-bred coach.  There’s no ‘stache, but he shares with Ted a laconic nice-guyness and an innate sweetness. (In fact, Jimmy seems way too copacetic to be a career crook; eventually we’ll learn that the botched bank job was his only foray into crime.) 

Moreover, both characters have that aw-shucks Midwestern way of talking. The big difference is that Ted is bent on amusing us, what with all his witty literary and cultural namedropping. Jimmy, on the other hand, isn’t deliberately funny and doesn’t have all that much to say.

Initially Aharon Keshales’ film (co-written with Kai Mark and Navot Papushado) presents itself as a tear-jerking love story.  The paroled Jimmy returns to his gal Annie (Evangeline Lilly with a blond pixie cut); he’s devoted to making her last months count.

But staying straight ain’t easy.  Jimmy’s parole officer, Schmidt (Shea Whigham, a fine actor here shamelessly overacting), is a creep who threatens to send Jimmy back to prison if he doesn’t serve as a mule in Schmidt’s mini crime syndicate.

On Schmidt’s behalf our reluctant hero finds himself running afoul of both a Hispanic drug lord (Amaury Nolasco) and an African-American gangster (Mike Colter).  (Why are the heavies minorities? Just curious.) At one point the latter kidnaps Annie because he believes Jimmy has made off with a half million of his ill-gotten gains.

Mike Colter

A desperate Jimmy responds by snatching the gangster’s entitled tweener son (Thaddeus J. Mixson).

Yeah, there’s way too much plot here, all of it ending in a most unromantic blood bath.

The screenplay alternates between moments of ghastly violence and sadism and genuinely thoughtful interludes, like the odd friendships that develops between Annie and the gangster and Jimmy and the gangster’s kid. 

If Jimmy seems a sort of dry run for Ted Lasso,  Colter’s erudite gangster is a reprise of his recurring character in TV’s “The Good Wife.” 

Sudeikis gives it the old college try, but I so love his gentle comedy that I felt like he was playing an ex-con in an “SNL” skit…you know, just a second away from donning a silly track suit and doing a goofy dance. It’s hard work reconciling the actor’s affable essence with the avenging angel he becomes in the last reel — like watching Mary Poppins mutate into Steven Segal.

| Robert W. Butler 

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Hannah Pearl Utt, Jen Tullock

“BEFORE YOU KNOW IT” My rating: B-

98 minutes | No MPAA rating

A family comedy with just enough edge, “Before You Know It” is the creation of Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock, who co-wrote the script and star as mutually exasperated sisters.

In addition, Utt directed.

The end results aren’t earth-shaking, but there’s a good deal of talent on display.

As she approaches 30 Rachel Gruner (Utt) still hasn’t had a chance to discover herself…she’s got a full-time job being the only grownup in a household where delusion reigns.

Her widowed father, playwright/actor Mel Gruner (Mandy Patinkin), is an overgrown child who has spent the last 50 years writing and starring in plays no one sees.  He mounts them in the basement theater of the Greenwich Village building he owns; the family lives upstairs.

Rachel’s older sister Jackie (Jen Tullock) is an always-aspiring actress who spends too much time chasing men to pay much attention to her 12-year-old daughter Dodge (Oona Yaffe).

By default, Rachel runs the family’s struggling theater company and serves as surrogate mother to Dodge, catering to her father’s artistic dreams and ignoring Jackie’s more maddening behavior.

But when Mel suffers a fatal heart attack, Rachel and Jackie discover that the mother they thought died nearly 30 years earlier is still alive. Indeed, she is a soap opera star named Sherrell (Judith Light) who has been paying the mortgage on the theater/apartment all this time. If they want to keep a roof over their heads, the sisters had best reach out to Mama.


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