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  Best Laid Plans Hard Luck Story
Year: 1999
Director: Mike Barker
Stars: Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, James Marsh, Terrence Howard, José Mendoza, Mike Hagerty, Sean Nepita, Michael McCleery, Gene Wolande, Jonathan McMurtry, Rocky Carroll, Jody Wood, Teddy Vincent, David Mandel, Jesse Woodrow
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Nick (Alessandro Nivola) has met up with his old college buddy Bryce (Josh Brolin) in this bar one night, and the place is practically deserted but they are amusing themselves chatting about this and that, mostly Bryce's attempts to forge a career as a teacher, although Nick is wondering if he's really the type to be tutoring kids considering how sleazy he can get when he goes off at a tangent. By and by a young woman enters the bar, calling herself Cathy (Reese Witherspoon), and Nick makes his excuses, leaving her and his friend to get to know each other. Later, he gets a fateful call...

So reliant on its big twist was Best Laid Plans that it's tempting not to give anything away about the plot at all, but here, after the nineties had been overrun with Quentin Tarantino clones, was a script by Ted Griffin who was beginning to make his name as a significant talent even if hits were thin on the ground for his work, and when you saw the care that went into the characters and their interaction, you could appreciate a measure of thought had gone into this. So this was not one of those rash of movies where people swore like it was going out of fashion and aimed guns at people while holding them sideways.

Instead it was more about the cruel twists of fate a run of bad luck can breed, and how once it begins it proves hard to shake, although whether it ends up quite as personally catastrophic for most sufferers as it does for Nick here was more debatable. But then, this was a Hollywood thriller, and though it had a certain indie sensibility it stuck to the tried and true conventions of those, so much so that with its gangster threat and false murder scheme you could be forgiven for thinking this was indeed what it appeared to be. Which was a vehicle for up and coming stars and a proving ground for other promising figures making their first steps in the industry, or something like that.

When it turned out that not many people saw it, and for those involved who did go onto brighter things it remained a footnote, it may have been tempting to dismiss Best Laid Plans with its non-specific and unmemorable title as not much worthy of note. But it began, very strongly, with Nick asked over to Bryce's fancy house, which he is looking after for friends, in a panicky tone of voice only to find the reason for that is after they went to bed together Cathy accused Bryce of raping her, and while he doesn't think he did, he's well aware it is her word against his and not only was he drunk at the time, he has found out she is sixteen years old, which means a statutory rape charge if this gets to the police.

So goodbye career, basically, which means Bryce winds up as badly off in the job stakes as Nick. Now Cathy is handcuffed to the pool table and looking worried, and Nick has to think up some way of getting his friend out of this mess. It is then we are pushed into a flashback of four months earlier where we see Nick has lost his father, and even more unfortunately his inheritance which he was relying on seeing him through some very lean years which now stretch out in front of him with no end in sight. The theme of bad luck is returned to again and again, but also that however bad things get there will at least be one part of your life offering reasons to go on, and in this case it's a woman. However, Nick even manages to jeopardise that, and all for love, leading to a strangely moving ending after the terrible revelations are finally dispensed with where he hopes that even with these awful events accepting them and moving on may be possible. It was a farfetched storyline all told, but skillfully presented. Music by Craig Armstrong.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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