Tuesday, January 22, 2008

First Snow

First Snow (Mark Fergus, 2007) [6]
A competant but by no means spectacular thriller, First Snow has a lot of things that are fairly well done. Guy Pearce's performance anchors the film and it has to, as the slow unraveling of Jimmy Starks's life after a visit with a fortune teller is the entire story. Pearce sells it by letting Jimmy be a truly unlikable character. In the beginning, he's an arrogant hotshot salesman that obviously, pays no serious attention to what the psychic is saying. But once certain things happen to come true, the film as well as Jimmy's psyche, lurch into a more metaphysical realm. Jimmy will be safe until the first snow occurs and as the film progresses to that point, Jimmy has to deal with the possibility of death as well as an unsavory bit of his past. Pearce succeeds in making all this believable because he allows himself as Jimmy to be unwound and completely susceptible to what most around him consider a bunch of nonsense. Jimmy becomes certain that an old friend, Vince, that he happened to send to prison, will try to exact revenge. The last half of the film becomes a kind of cat and mouse game between the two. While the story itself is nothing new, Fergus executes it very well, building a series of tense moments that any thriller should. What helps, especially in a noirish film like this, is an excellent yet minimal score that underscores the anxiety in the air. While all of the auxiliary elements of the film help Fergus, he seems to forgot that story is the film's main weakness. None of the supporting characters have much to do other than Vince, Jimmy's old friend, but even he's not seen until the very end. My main problem is that the characters and story have been told so much in so many variations that it's nothing special. I'm always someone who preaches about not having to have a tidy resolution to a film but here, I feel the ending is completely wrong for the way the film had been heading to that point. No matter how many right things can be done with a film, if there are some glaring weaknesses, they take precedent.

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