Every now and then, I opt to review a movie I know next to nothing about. Pretty much all I knew about After the Fall was that it had Wes Bentley of American Beauty, The Hunger Games, and most recently, American Horror Story fame turning to crime in order to support his family. The movie poster features him with a gun in front of a giant American flag backdrop with the tagline “Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures,” so I was expecting a big action flick full of explosions that moved at a break-neck pace.
I got something else entirely, and you know what? It wasn’t half-bad.
After the Fall
Director: Saar Klein
Release Date: December 12, 2014
Bill (Wes Bentley) is having a real hell of a time. He just lost his job and he has a wife (Vinessa Shaw) and two young boys to support. Nobody will hire him and he’s got bill to pay and mouths to feed. One day, Bill kind of, sort of robs two people, which sends him on a journey into the world of robberies at gunpoint. Complicating his once-simple life further is his friendship with police officer Frank (Jason Isaacs). Will Bill escape from his new job of “guy in stocking mask” unscathed? Can he escape?
Wes Bentley and Jason Isaacs, really the only two characters who matter (and Isaacs skews dangerously close to me using ‘matters’ loosely), both do a fine job. Bentley is believable as a genuinely nice guy who kind of trips into armed robbery. He isn’t happy about what he’s doing, and initially even assures his victims as such. As the movie progressed, I found myself sympathizing a little less, especially during one scene near the end where he has a meltdown in a bank (not while robbing it, however) and starts calling the employees ‘piggies.’ That said, he was just fine in the roll. Isaacs’ Frank was a likable veteran cop who has seen it all, and despite not really doing a whole lot in the film, I found myself enjoying scenes with him a lot. Everyone else in it plays their role just fine, but the film isn’t about the cute gas station clerk, or Bill’s wife, or his father-n-law (who was delightfully hate-able in his very limited screen time); it’s about Bill. To that point, any scene without him in it felt kind of out of place.
There is one big, huge, inevitable comparison people are going to draw to this film, and it rhymes with “Making Mad.” A man trying to provide for his family through illicit means in New Mexico and has a very close bond with an officer of the law? We spent six years seeing that story play out. After the Fall is treading well-worn territory, just without the benefit of a lovable scamp sidekick like Aaron Paul.
Despite the Breaking Bad comparisons, there are several things this film really has going for it aside from the handsome lead. The music was atmospheric and at times hypnotic, and it fit the desolate, depressed New Mexico landscape to a T.
If I had to describe After the Fall in one word, it would be “meandering.” Even though I liked it well enough, I kept looking at my watch. The film is about fifteen or twenty minutes too long. Had they tightened it just a little bit more, I think it would have served the film well. Despite the run time, I think this film played itself out to its natural conclusion, and when the credits rolled I was nodding my head in agreement of the filmmaker’s choices. Sure, they took a few detours, but they still ended up in the right place.
Despite my disappointment that this was no Michael Bay explosion marathon, After the Fall is a decent way to spend two hours. Wes Bentley is always a joy to watch, and I could almost picture his weird little shit character from American Beauty growing up and becoming an insurance claims inspector who then loses his job and embarks on a weird journey into a life of crime to support his family, perhaps even having been subconsciously inspired by Walter White.
After the Fall won’t exactly take the world by storm, but if you’re stuck inside on a cold winter day and see it pop up on Netflix, it’s certainly worth a watch.