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Best Laid Plans   C+

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Mike Barker
Writer: Ted Griffin
Cast: Alessandro Nivolo, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Rocky Carroll, Michael G. Hagerty, Terrence Dashon Howard, Jamie Marsh.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Best Laid Plans is a film noir style thriller that takes delight in stylish camera angles, nonlinear storytelling, and plot twists around every corner. It's an intriguing effort, directed by a guy named Mike Barker, but it's lacking that spark that pulls you deep into the story and engrosses you till the end.

In the opening of the film, two old college buddies named Nick and Bryce (Alessandro Nivolo and Josh Brolin) meet at a bar for a couple of drinks. In walks the seductive Lissa (Reese Witherspoon), who hits it off with Bryce. Later that night, Nick gets a phone call from Bryce, who needs his help. Nick arrives at his buddy's pad and is shocked to discover the situation. Turns out that Bryce took Lissa to his place after they left the bar, they had sex, but afterward Lissa accused him of rape and said she was going to file charges. So Bryce chained her up in the basement and now he doesn't know what to do.

I can't possibly give away any more of the plot without spoiling it. Let's just say that some people will love the twists and turns, while others will be annoyed and feel deceived. I went along with the ride for the most part, even if some of the twists were rather hard to swallow.

Best Laid Plans tries to be a moralistic character study, but doesn't quite succeed in that area. It poses questions like How far would you go to help a friend? and What would you do for the one you love? But though the characters are fairly well drawn, you don't ever feel a real connection to them. You feel for them on a purely superficial level, but it leaves you wishing they were a little more than skin deep.

Alessandro Nivolo makes a good, likable lead. His character, Nick, is a down-on-his-luck guy that most people can relate to. Reese Witherspoon fits her role just fine, too. Josh Brolin is really the only weak link in the cast; his performance as Bryce just doesn't ring true.

Rest assured, the complex, maze-like plot all comes together in the end. It will leave some viewers feeling cheated, but I was fairly satisfied with the outcome. Best Laid Plans doesn't have any real lasting impact, but if you're a fan of the "perfect-crime-gone-wrong" genre, this might be worth renting on a Saturday afternoon when you don't feel like watching Reservoir Dogs again.

Review published 02.18.2000.

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