“Shimmer Lake” – Oren Uziel’s directorial debut – is a reminder why we need more spawns of Coen Brothers’ legacy.
“Shimmer Lake” abounds in dark humor bits, whilst the inventive story told backwards provides a lot of detective fun for the viewer. Set aside some low budget vices and two overly dumb characters and prepare for a cool heist-gone-wrong movie.
In a small, American town, three men organize a heist on a local bank. Ed Burton (Wyatt Russell), an ex-convict wants to leave the town with his girlfriend, Steph (Stephanie Sigman). To gain a quick buck, he offers a heist job to Andy Sikes (Rainn Wilson) – a lawyer – and a typical half-wit Chris (Mark Rendall). After the robbery takes place, they are targeted by two police officers – Zeke (Benjamin Walker), the brother of Andy and Reed – a well as two moronic FBI agents.
Uziel is surely an ardent fan of “Fargo”, because “Shimmer Lake” uses a lot of that dark humor we know from Coens. The suburban character of the town, the local police that usually has nothing to do and lots of strange guys trying to make their ends meet – it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? However, Uziel’s film is far from a poor try to reinvent Coens’ style, like it happened in “Cop Car” or “Cut Bank” most recently. “Shimmer Lake” is much more original, especially thanks to the reverse timeline, divided into several days. Each day that follows the heist starts off with a deep breath of one of the characters, as if the audience too needs to prepare for the final – I must say outstanding – finale. Such manner allows Uziel to play with the characters a lot. And even though we learn the end of the story right from the start, the director keeps our interest ongoing.
It is vastly thanks to the characters. Rainn Wilson is brilliant as a kind-of-nerdy and a bit edgy lawyer, whilst Benjamin Walker stoicism and witty attitude is captivating. A bit less attractive in this whole messy situation is Ed – even though he fits the stereotype of a small crook in a rural area, he over-sketched. The good thing is that we wait around half of the film until we get to know the infamous Ed. Apart from good-or-worse acting, “Shimmer Lake” is quite well shot. There isn’t much of originality, but it tops many other Netflix’s offerings in terms of editing and cinematography.
It is understandable that “Shimmer Lake” is most slick in writing. Oren Uziel, who also directed the film for Netflix, is the man behind scripts for “22 Jump Street” and a nutsy yet quite successful indie “Freaks Of Nature”. “Shimmer Lake” is all about witty lines, delivered mostly by Benjamin Walker’s nifty character Zeke. Uziel finds it easy to evoke comedy in this gritty atmosphere too. Either it is the FBI duo that totally breaks the know-it-all ethos of an FBI agent or extremely dumb Chris and simply whatever he says, the comedy is very light. Even if it sometimes hits rock bottom – especially with Chris’ outstandingly dumb lines – Uziel still keeps the flow of his film going.
Over the course of only few years, Netflix has cemented a position of a bold producer, who apart from big projects, finances lots of smaller indie films. “Shimmer Lake” is a very skillfully delivered proposition, that – even though doesn’t change the cinema forever – provides a good laugh and fun. Sometimes it’s all it takes for a film to avoid my hate, you know?
Shimmer Lake (2017)
Dir. Oren Uziel
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Benjamin Walker
Hate Grade: 3.5/10