Top positive review
A Fine, Tense Thriller
23 August 2016
Carl Franklin’s 1992 crime thriller takes a well-established premise – that of 'big city’ cops moving to 'the sticks’ in order to solve a case (this time, involving drugs and murder) – and imbues it with a tense, atmospheric mood plus a number of impressive character performances from his cast. Taking us from a violent drugs heist in LA to the sultry south of Arkansas, Franklin’s narrative follows two parallel trajectories. The first – more conventional and, for me, less successful – charts the in-fighting and bickering between the criminal trio of boyfriend/girlfriend, Bill Bob Thornton’s Ray and Cynda Williams’ 'reluctant moll’, Fantasia/Lila, plus (in tow) Michael Beach’s cool sadist, 'Pluto’. The second follows a pair of 'interloper’ LA cops into the southern territory (the intended destination of the criminal trio) of Bill Paxton’s naïve small-town cop and family man, Dale 'Hurricane’ Dixon.
It is this second thread and, in particular, the characterisation and performance of Paxton where Franklin’s film really scores. We’ve seen it before, of course, the local cop aspiring to reputations of the men from the big city and being conflicted between personal ambition and more domestic duties, but Paxton gets the mix of un-PC bravado and apprehension just right and we’re (of course) rooting for him all the way. As the tension builds and the trio approach Dixon’s patch, Franklin and co-screenwriter Bob Thornton reveal that Dixon and local girl Lila go back a long way, thus upping the stakes for Dale still further. The film’s 'southern gothic’ ambience is particularly to the fore during the latter stages thanks to its infectious blues harmonica soundtrack. One False Move also has an 18 certificate for its (relatively few) bouts of clinical violence, but it is through the humanity of the Dixon and (eventually) Lilia characters that Franklin’s film should be remembered. For those interested, Paxton and Bob Thornton were reunited (albeit as very different characters) six years later in the equally impressive A Simple Plan.