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Undermind (2003)
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by Brian McKay

"A good film in the middle that’s (unfortunately) book-ended by mediocrity"
3 stars

The “switched identities” premise is nothing new, but it can still be exhilarating if it’s done right – and UNDERMIND almost does it right. Unfortunately, the film’s premise doesn’t really pay off in a satisfying manner, but for most of the ride it is a decent psychological thriller in the vein of MEMENTO.

After a marginally intriguing opening that features a cop-killing and a young thug hiring a hit-man to kill his brother, we are introduced to Derrick Hall (Sam Tramell), a trust fund baby who has a domineering mother, a dead father who never showed him any affection, and job that he hates. Derrick works as an attorney at a high-power corporate law firm, a job that he got through his dead daddy’s legacy – but what he'd really like to be doing is working on criminal cases at the District Attorney’s office.

But it’s hard to feel too sorry for him, since he also lives in a swanky Manhattan apartment and has a really hot girlfriend named Olivia (Susan May Pratt) who shags him on a regular basis despite her misgivings about his lack of ambition or commitment. Yeah, yeah, Daddy didn’t love you enough and Mommy’s a bitch . . . cry me a river while you’re banging your supermodel-looks girlfriend in the backseat of your Porsche.

But just when Derrick’s poor little rich boy routine is starting to get old, the film takes a sudden turn into weirdsville. Derrick wakes up in a crappy ghetto apartment. He still looks basically the same, only now his hairstyle is different, he’s covered in Tattoos, and for some reason everyone’s calling him Zane. As it turns out, this “Zane” dude runs with some pretty shady characters, the shadiest of all being his dangerously unstable criminal brother, Ian (Erik Jensen). When Derrick tries to track down any remnants of his former life, strangers answer his home phone number and the doorman at his apartment insists he’s never seen him before. And there’s just one other small problem . . . suddenly everything around him seems to be written backwards. So the cars, money, and nice clothes are gone, and he’s also saddled with a touch of dyslexia. Tough break, kid! At least he still has a hot girlfriend, though, as he soon takes up with Zane’s old lady, Anya (Tara Subkoff).

And really, who can blame him – especially since Zane wakes up in Derrick’s apartment with full access to both his money and Olivia, and you can bet that he’s going to make the most of that access. While Derrick is busy trying to unravel his predicament and discover what the connection between him and Zane is, Zane is busy enjoying the good life and telling off Derrick’s rich-bitch mother and irate boss. Not surprisingly, he’s in no hurry to get back to his old identity of living on crackhouse row and doing small time heists for a living.

As each character becomes further entrenched in each other’s identity the story gets more convoluted but equally intriguing. But then it takes the easy way out with a resolution that wraps things up far too neatly and quickly, with happy endings all around. Not that happy endings are always a bad thing, but this one comes far too easily. Each character escapes the consequences of his actions (or inactions) and blissfully flies off into the sunset – apparently without ever bothering to find an explanation for what the hell just happened to them during the preceding days.

Despite it’s shortcomings, however, UNDERMIND shows promise from freshman feature director Nevil Dwek and leading man Sam Tramell. As it stands, UNDERMIND isn’t particularly memorable, but it is mostly entertaining. Dwek may have room for improvement, but he’s not off to a bad start. 3.5 / 5 stars

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originally posted: 02/12/04 09:32:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Indie Fest. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Independent Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/24/11 Andreas Waste of time 2 stars
6/05/06 jo great idea 4 stars
8/18/05 Martín Explanation of what really has happened are necessary, so much magic 3 stars
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  N/A (NR)



Directed by
  Nevil Dwek

Written by
  Nevil Dwek

  Sam Trammell
  Erik Jensen
  Susan May Pratt
  Celia Weston
  Stephen Gevedon
  Jon DeVries

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