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Lake City

Universal // R // March 3, 2009
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted April 2, 2009 | E-mail the Author

Lake City (2008) cast supermodel Rebecca Romijn as a small town sheriff. That bears repeating because it is amazing. Rebecca Romijn, small town sheriff. They trod the old path of taking a pretty girl, remove her makeup, pin her hair back, and put her in dowdy blouses and public servant uniform. That, along with her forced accent, is supposed to make us not realize there is a Sport Illustrated swimsuit cover model within that drab costuming. Not exactly convincing, never is.

On the other hand, Lake City has solid character actors Keith Carradine and Barry Corbin in rugged roles that suit the men, only, they aren't really given much to do. Corbin is only around for one scene; whereas Carradine, once so mighty a Southern acting voice in the likes of Nashville, Southern Comfort, The Long Riders, and Emperor of the North Pole, is saddled with playing a stock, goody goodie mechanic in an undercooked supporting role.

Likewise, in a main role, you have Sissy Spacek, who is definitive when it comes to countryfide parts, but Lake City doesn't give her a whole hell of room to flex her acting muscle. Sure, the film lets her simmer, then have a big emotional moment in the final third, then sinks that effort by having her be forced into running around in the hackneyed suspense finale.

My biggest misgiving about Lake City's casting is the fact that whine-voiced fusion balladeer Dave Matthews is cast as a maniacal, unbalanced drug dealer. I'll only give you one bit of stunt casting per film, so while I'll allow Rebecca Romijn, I won't grant you Matthews, who isn't right for the role and criminally shows us his buttcrack.

Tony Gilroy plays Billy, a down and out musician, though the film blatantly sidesteps opportunities to show him play. Billy has a cokehead girlfriend who has taken off with a drug dealers stash and left poor Billy with his son and said dealers on his trial. The kid doesn't know he's Billy's son and the chick is not so subtlety named Hope. Get it? Billy's looking for "Hope."

Billy shows back up in his hometown and drags the kid to his mothers (Spacek). Billy and his mother clearly have some issues. She pretty much spends most of her time alone, looking pensively at the sunset, and keeping one room of the house "mysteriously" off limits. Flashbacks indicate that she apparently had two sons, so it doesn't take a genius to surmise one of them died and the other grew up to be a self-absorbed, substance abusing, low rung musician with a son he hasn't been raising and a girlfriend who'd rather be engaged to Tony Montana.

I don't quite know what to make of the writer/director duo of Hunter Hill and Perry Moore. This is their apparent debut film and imdb lists Moore having the most substantial credential as an executive producer of the current Chronicles of Narnia films. I suspect that neither really knows the farmland terrain they are covering. Lake City is someones imagined idea of heartland crime and middle Americas class of hard working, salt of the Earth citizens. Need an example? The kid in the film states that his mother works at Hooters, then follows this up with, "She's a dancer." Clumsy writing or ignorant mistake? Judging by the rest of the film, I'd lean towards mistake. Yes, this was probably written by people who think Hooters girls are go-go dancers or strippers.

For much of its running time, Lake City plays like an anemic David Gordon Green film. I say "anemic" because it it fails at capturing any genuine, tender emotion and that essential feel of idyllic small town life. There is the simmering secret, the not discussed tragedy, but it is one that is easy to figure out. Billy just kind of wanders around, acts like a jerk, flirts with his childhood love turned cop, but his search for Hope is a blank, he just goes to a bar and parks his car outside a baseball field. So, the emotional arc doesn't have far to go and because of the evil drug dealers the threat of a terrible last act comes to fruition. Buried guilt and and a fragmented mother and son, who cares? We've got Hollywood comical drug kingpins and bouncer looking henchman to throw into the mix. Why have an Oscar winning actress like Sissy Spacek emote when you can have her running from a black truck in a field?

The DVD: Screen Media

Picture: The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and looks pretty good. While definitely modest, there are no low budget quirks and the cinematography is fairly clean and does a decent job of capturing the sweeping fields and rural sunsets. Overall specs are sound, tight contrast, sharpness, and colors, and technically there is only some slight noise/grain that keeps the transfer from being flawless.

Sound: A sole 5.1 surround track does a pleasant enough job. Clean, decent mix. Subtitle options boil down to a single choice of Spanish language subs.

Extras: Amusingly, when you navigate to the extras you are taken to the Spanish subtitle select screen. Thats it. Well, unless you count the obtrusive Screen Media release trailers that autoplay when you start the movie.

Conclusion: Lake City is a disingenuous pretender to the homegrown Southern genre throne. It basically goes through the usual rambling, working-class motions before capping itself off as a bad bucolic, piss poor pastoral crime number. Technically fine, but the performers cast in one note roles and the well-telegraphed story beats ring hollow. The DVD is okay in its basic presentation but totally bare of any significant extras.

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