Family members often pass a legacy from one generation to another. Undertow is a powerful drama about the violent undercurrent between two generations of brothers. John (Dermont Mulroney), a single father living in poverty in the south, seems unsure about how to handle his boys or work through his own loss and depression. He treats his sons almost like slaves.
Chris, the oldest boy, is played amazingly by Jamie Bell -- yes, the same young lad who danced into peopleís hearts in Billy Elliott. As a teenager in Undertow, Chris must tend to the pigs, take care of most of the chores around the house and see that his ailing younger brother doesnít kill himself by eating something dangerous.
Bailing Chris out of jail for petty mischief once again, John becomes even more frustrated over how to deal with the boys and his duties. No wonder heís optimistic when his brother Deel (Josh Lucas) arrives and offers to help. Deel may be fresh out of prison and itís obvious some sort of grievance exists between the brothers, but John is desperate. When both men decide to bury the hatchet, John invites Deel to stay.
Deel, a sassy and adventurous man who drives a fast car, is alluring to Chris, who has never been more than a few miles from his house. At first heís taken in by Deelís camaraderie, but soon the uncle shows his real hand, and itís not pretty. Seems the only reason Deel came to find John involves another legacy their grandfather passed on, a sack of antique gold coins.
Lucas boasts a charming smile as big as Texas, which makes him perfect for movies like the romantic Sweet Home Alabama. But, as he recently exhibited in Around the Bend, he can be pensive and transform himself from a likeable, forgiving brother into a hardened killer in the blink of eye.
Deel questions the boys concerning what they know about the coins, then kills John in order to search the house and find the treasure. When the boys realize theyíre next on the list, they know they must run. The last part of the movie contains an exciting chase scene in which director David Green pulls out all the stops. Green (George Washington and All the Real Girls) is rapidly becoming a talked-about director because of his innovative style and the way he helps his actors find the true voice of the characters they portray.
Undertow, a story of betrayal, fear and what life can dish out without any reason, is not a happy movie -- one certainly not for children. Although itís somewhat painful to watch and the ending seems a bit trite, itís all about good filmmaking and great performances.
(Released by United Artists and rated ďRĒ for violence.)