One False Move

(Carl Franklin, USA, 1992)


One could hardly enter a local arthouse cinema in the '90s without falling over a small movie touted breathlessly as a tough, intelligent, independently produced, low-budget thriller from America.

From Delusion (1990) to Reservoir Dogs (1992), we saw a spate of films notable for their inventiveness and economy: reduced sets of characters in confined spaces, laconic dialogue, sudden bursts of violence and surprising shifts in the balance of power.

Directed with a sure hand by Carl Franklin, One False Move mixes familiar generic elements with a number of surprising content areas that slowly seep to the surface of the plot.

At first it is a typically low-life heist movie, with an inter-racial trio of crooks (Cynda Williams, Billy Bob Thornton and Michael Beach) arguing with each other in a car as they make off across America. Two world-weary city cops (one of them Jim Metzler from Delusion) get on their trail.

The interesting material happens in the small town of Star City, where all the characters eventually converge. There, the local sheriff (Bill Paxton in one of his best roles) sits and waits for the violent criminals like an eager child. He fails to impress his colleagues from the city; and, infinitely worse, he shares a secret past with the black woman in the approaching gang.

Subtly working out its themes of racial and social culture clash, One False Move is a captivating variation on a popular '90s formula.

MORE Franklin: High Crimes, One True Thing, Out of Time

© Adrian Martin November 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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