With her husband away at sea, Margaret Hall is left alone to raise her teenage sons, a task made more difficult when her eldests gay lover winds up dead. Convinced her sons a murderer, she covers up his crime, only to find herself blackmailed.
Okay, time to suspend that disbelief. About as plausible as P. D. James on acid, McGehee and Siegels follow-up to their 1993 Sundance smash, Suture (not ones to rush things, these boys), defies more or less every rational train of thought.
That, depending on how you look at it, is the bad news. If, however, you like your crime capers twistier than a plate of linguini, your noir a shade darker than freshly-laid Tarmac, and your villains to be of a deliberately vague, Eastern European ancestry, then look no further.
Inspired by Elizabeth Sanxay Holdings 40s novel, The Blank Wall (already adapted by Max Ophuls as The Reckless Moment back in 1949), the success of this entire enterprise hangs on whether you buy into the central conceit: that a mother would do literally anything to protect her child. Even if that requires her pulling anchors out of corpses chests, burying bodies at the bottom of lakes and taking on the underworld. Hmm, Mums been to Viceland.
Away from their convoluted plotting, the directing duo (they have quiet discussions, apparently, until they come to a consensus) show genuine visual flair, making great use of their beautiful Lake Tahoe location. But the guarantee of quality here came with the casting.
Tucker (Billy Crudups younger incarnation in Sleepers) gives a convincing display of tortured vulnerability, Visnjic is suitably dangerous-yet-honourable (and look out for a neat nod to his ER ancestry), and Swinton marks a solid return to her more feminist roots, after her soap-dodging turn in The Beach. Here her show of female strength doesnt nobly stretch to bumping uglies with DiCaprio, but rests in a superbly stoic performance as the woman whose everyday grind is every bit as destructive as the hoodlums darkening her door.
Frustratingly twisty-turny and often highly implausible. No matter. Leave your common sense at the door and enjoy a hauntingly atmospheric, beautifully noirish and superbly-acted thriller.