DIRECTOR: Oren Uziel
WRITER: Oren Uziel
John Michael Higgins
When a bank heist goes wrong, the three criminals that are believed to be attached to the crime are hunted down by the local sheriff and his deputy. Also on the trail of the three criminals are two agents who also want to bring the offenders to justice. One of the criminals who is on the run is the brother of the local sheriff. He will try and bring his brother to justice before it ends badly.
For several months, I passed over Shimmer Lake when it debuted on Netflix. I wasn't sure what to make of the movie. It looked like it fell somewhere between a homespun murder mystery that the Coen Brothers would cook up with elements of a pitch-black comedy. I decided to finally give it a shot when the movie was talked about on several horror podcasts that I listen to regularly. Not exactly a horror movie but fit the criteria to be discussed, so I finally caved in and gave it a watch.
We'll start with the positives of Shimmer Lake. First up, I really enjoyed the way that the story unfolded. It's not every day that you witness a movie that tells the story in reverse. We begin at the end after a bank heist has already taken place and all three criminals are currently on the run. The movie is shown in a day to day format. So we start on Friday and make our way back in days. Each day uncovers more twists and turns in the story. Some more successful than others.
The acting, for the most part, is excellent. I found myself really enjoying most of the cast here. Rainn Wilson as one of the criminals who is on the run is at his most mean. He is actually pretty unlikeable here. It serves his character well. His sheriff bother is played by Benjamin Walker who I'm aware of from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. His probably the only likeable person in the story. With each reveal, it gives us more and more characters who we don't care about or if they live or die.
The supporting cast is filled with talented comedic actors. We have Adam Pally as our deputy who only manages to get the backseat every time he jumps in the squad car. Rob Corddry and Ron Livingston as our two bumbling FBI agents are there for a bit of comic relief and John Michael Higgins is great in his small role as a married judge who has a thing for meth-addicted rent boys. Each actor brings their talents to all of their respective roles. It's just a shame they are all written to be utterly unpleasant.
Now, onto the issues that I had with Shimmer Lake. I found the tone of the movie to be really uneven. At times the film is a crime thriller with moments of bloodshed, and the very next scene has the script injecting comedy into it. I think a black comedy or a comedy horror has to have the right balance for it to work. I don't think Shimmer Lake is quite there for me. I think the thriller element outweighed the comedic stuff. The comedy didn't land quite as much as the shocks with the twist and turns.
During the film, I think I laughed maybe two or three times during the entire movie. One just happened to be a moment where a kid tells a deputy to 'sit his fat fucking ass' in the back of a cop car because she is riding up front. I also thought the entire meth-addicted rent boy scene was hilarious. Just as quick as I'd start to laugh, the movie would deliver blood and violence. It felt almost wrong or like not enough time had passed for it to feel warranted. This is indeed no Fargo.
The final reveal towards the end of the movie didn't hit as hard as the director/writer had hoped it would. It leads up to this big reveal as to why two of the three major characters who have survived the ordeal have this big secret and a revenge plot in mind. The person they seek revenge on is so unlikeable that his comeuppance feels warranted. It's not a moment that feels like it adds anything to the story. This feels incredibly light on plot. If it wasn't for the backwards storytelling device, this might have seemed even less impactful.
Lastly, I just wanted to bring up the character development. A lot of the smaller parts in the film feel like they aren't given enough exposition. Characters come and go, are there one second and murdered the next. In saying that, though. When a well-known cast member is killed off suddenly, it provides some decent shocks. The ones that you expect to stay around don't. I think with little to no building on any of the supporting characters, a lot of them don't feel important.
DEATH TOLL: 4
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A man is seen lying on the floor, covered in blood.
- A man is gunned down.
- Someone is shot in the stomach and head.
- A man is shot in the head, and his brains are exposed at the back.
- A guy is blown away with a machine gun.
Shimmer Lake joins a long list of smalltown homespun murder mysteries. While not the worst of the bunch. This falls just short. While it feels like it tries to capture the same spirit as movies like Fargo, it sadly doesn't come close to the brilliance of that film. Underwritten and unlikeable characters, a plot that amounts to nothing, and an uneven tone can't be saved by the talented cast and backwards storytelling device.