South of Heaven

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

South of Heaven
dir Aharon Keshales
scr Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Kai Mark
prd Roger Birnbaum, Dallas Sonnier, Amanda Presmyk, Chadd Harbold, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
with Jason Sudeikis, Evangeline Lilly, Mike Colter, Shea Whigham, Michael Pare, Jeremy Bobb, Thaddeus J Mixson, Amaury Nolasco, Jaime Zevallos, Tina Parker, Pete O Partida, Julius Gregory
release US 8.Oct.21
21/US 2h00

colter whigham pare

Is it streaming?

lilly and sudeikis
With a gentle stillness, this rural Texas drama finds easy-going charm in the subdued likability of Jason Sudeikis, who shines in a rare dramatic role. While the slow pace and over-stretched running time sometimes get rather sleepy, director Aharon Keshales allows the cast to inject earthy comedy into serious moments. But he and his fellow screenwriters can't resist tilting the story into the usual violent action mayhem.
After 12 years in prison for armed robbery, Jimmy (Sudeikis) now wants to give his girlfriend Annie (Lilly) the best year of her life before she dies of cancer. His parole officer Schmidt (Whigham) has no sense of humour, forcing Jimmy to take part in some seedy criminal activity. His old pal Frank (Bobb) helps him out of a mess, but slick mobster Price (Colter) arrives to ruthlessly get what he wants. Kidnappings and standoffs follow, as Jimmy remains determined to deliver on his promise to Annie. But fate seems to have other ideas.
The opening scenes centre on Jimmy's readjustment and gradual reconnection with Annie. These scenes have intriguing layers to them, but they're quickly interrupted by the low-life crime plotline, which feels so familiar that it would be little more than a cliche without Sudeikis' offbeat personality. There are so many pointed accidents that it's difficult to suspend disbelief, especially since several of them are randomly violent. And even the story structure has the nagging sense that everything is happening right on cue.

Sudeikis gives Jimmy a warm, down-home humour that's deeply engaging and helps us believe that he really does want to stay clean, at least until he's pushed into a corner and shows his inexplicable skills. His connection with Lilly's Annie is very nicely played by both of them, even as the strain to their relationship surges and events twist and turn around them. So it's a bit frustrating that it never gets to properly develop, instead becoming entangled in such a deliberately contrived messy situation.

This is another tale of an ex-con struggling to resist his old ways as circumstances stack up against him. In this case, that includes a number of nasty coincidences the screenwriters decided to throw into the mix. The cast is solid enough across the board to hold the interest even when the pacing drifts to a halt, or when Keshales drops in another stereotype. But it feels like a movie we've seen many times before.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Oct.21

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