EW Staff
August 11, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Undertow

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
107 minutes
Wide Release Date
10/22/04
performer
Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, Devon Alan, Shiri Appleby
director
David Gordon Green
distributor
United Artists (MGM)
author
David Gordon Green
genre
Drama

We gave it a B-

Director David Gordon Green’s follow-up to his lauded indie ”All the Real Girls” features two brothers (Jamie Bell and Devon Alan) in the Deep South on the run from their convict uncle (Josh Lucas), who’s after their bag of gold coins. Sounds like a tall tale, and that may be the case: The plot originated with a phone worker on a help line for runaways. ”He got a story from this kid that sounded so far out that we all assume it was — it sounded like a Robert Louis Stevenson book,” says Green. The tale got passed on until it landed with director (and ”Undertow” coproducer) Terrence Malick, who tapped Green to cowrite and direct.

The dark film features Bell in his first starring role since ”Billy Elliot.” The 18-year-old recalls his off-kilter casting meeting with Green: ”He played me some music [metal-country like 16 Horsepower and minimalist Arvo Pärt] and said, ‘If you can imagine pictures of this music, this is what I want the film to be.’ I thought, This guy has got some crazy ideas, and I want to be a part of what he has to do.” Ultimately, Green describes ”Undertow” as similar to ”a boys’ adventure novel of the ’50s — I wanted the poster to be [someone] holding a lantern and pointing at the staircase. I think it’s a little too campy, but that’s the vein we were going for.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE From ”George Washington” to ”Girls,” Green has stepped up with every new film, but the ultra-stylized ”Undertow” may divide audiences.

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