A Tribute To The Coen Brothers – Shimmer Lake (2017)

“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.

What is “Shimmer Lake” (2017) about?

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.

Poster of “Shimmer Lake” (2017) by Netflix.

A love letter to Coens

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 attempt at reinventing Coens’ style, like it happened in “Cop Car” or “Cut Bank” most recently. “Shimmer Lake” is much more original. First and foremost, 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. This creates a feeling of a countdown, as if the audience too needed to prepare for the finale.

“Shimmer Lake” is most slick in writing. Oren Uziel, who also directed the film for Netflix, is the man who wrote “22 Jump Street” and a nutsy indie “Freaks Of Nature”. And dialogues are Uziel’s fine weapon – “Shimmer Lake” is all about witty lines, delivered mostly by Benjamin Walker’s nifty character Zeke. The actor clearly has fun with the character he plays, a calm law enforcer with a second layer to him.

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 the extremely dumb Chris, the comedy is very light and on point. Even if it sometimes hits rock bottom – especially with Chris’ outstandingly dumb lines – Uziel still keeps the flow of his film going.

Still from “Shimmer Lake” (2017) by Netflix.

An engaging plot and its structure is one thing, but the story’s leveraged by the characters. Rainn Wilson is brilliant as a kind-of-nerdy and a bit edgy lawyer, whilst Benjamin Walker’s stoicism and witty attitude are captivating. A bit less juicy role belongs to Ed. Even though he fits the stereotype of a small crook in a rural area, he’s widely over-sketched. However, before Ed shows up on the screen, the film smoothly moves with Wilson and Walker.

Apart from good-or-worse acting, “Shimmer Lake” is quite well shot too. There isn’t much of originality in that field, but it tops many other Netflix’s offerings in terms of editing and cinematography.

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) – Culturally Hated or Loved?

Quite well-written and executed with decent style, “Shimmer Lake” gets Netflix a much-needed boost in its range of Originals.

Shimmer Lake (2017)

Dir. Oren Uziel

Hate Grade: 3.5/10

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