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Deepwater
cast: Lucas Black, Peter Coyote, Mia Maestro, Lesley Anne Warren, and Michael Ironside

director: David S. Marfield

93 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 16:9
Liberation DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Nat Banyon (Lucas Black) is a drifter, recovering from a hospital visit and intent on setting up an ostrich farm. When he saves Herman Finch (Peter Coyote) from death in a car accident, Finch rewards him with a place to live and an offer of a job. Finch is the owner of the local motel, a rundown ruin of a lakeshore resort and lacks the skills and youth to finish the reservations himself.

Nat is embraced by the eccentric Finch as family and finds himself settling into the town. The people are welcoming, the job is demanding but rewarding and he soon befriends Iris (Mia Maestro), Finch's wife. But as time goes on, the relationship goes a step further, Nat sees behind the curtain of the town and the stage is set for a boxing match that Nat seems destined to lose...

This is a fascinating, small-scale piece of cinema that depending on your point of view is either deeply innovative or immensely frustrating. Arranged as a puzzle, the film gives you everything you need to know but never quite tips its hand, as careful a card player as Finch himself until the closing moments. For some, they'll be the perfect capstone to the story, for others, a disaster.

The undeniable strength here though is the cast. It's one of the great mysteries of modern cinema that Lucas Black doesn't get more work. He's an effortlessly charismatic presence, threatening and innocent at the same time, and he manages to draw the combination of emotions Nat goes through, from fear to desire to horror and rage and anger, out naturally and elegantly. He's physically imposing yet somehow still eminently likable, eminently average and that makes the film's events all the more shocking.

Coyote, in contrast, is a ball of energy, all wild gestures and extravagance. He plays Finch as a wilful eccentric with a core of iron and the face offs between the two men simmer with genuine tension. At the same time, there's a lot of humour in Finch and Coyote is able to bring out both the likable and threatening sides of that aspect of the character. He has a weight to him; a gravity that draws the eye and that only heightens the conflict, the tension between Finch and Nat.

Of the rest of the cast, Xander Berkely and Michael Ironside turn in typical, effortlessly good performances whilst Maestro, and Lesley Ann Warren, do well with relatively small roles. For unusual reasons, the female characters aren't especially well served but Maestro in particular still registers.

This fault aside, Deepwater is a surprising economic and at the same time dense piece of work. Black and Coyote turn in excellent performances, the script and direction are excellent and there are a couple of very pleasant surprises in the supporting cast. If nothing else, this is a film you'll be discussing after it's finished and I can't think of a better recommendation.
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