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With: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins, French Stewart, Kent Harper, Caroline Aaron, Kyle Briere, Hugh Dillon, Gill Gayle, Daryl Haney, Michael Ironside, Shannon Jardine, Mac Miller, Charlie Newmark, Cheri Oteri, Anita Smith, Josh Strait, Kent Wolkowski
Written by: Kent Harper, Jennifer Lynch
Directed by: Jennifer Lynch
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some drug use and a scene of aberrant sexuality
Running Time: 97
Date: 05/21/2008

Surveillance (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Roadside Reactions

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jennifer Lynch's Boxing Helena (1993) was so universally loathed that it put the filmmaker -- the daughter of David Lynch -- on some kind of forced hiatus for 16 years. I hadn't seen it, so I came to her new film with fresh eyes. Surveillance is a crafty crime film with an involving setup and a ridiculous payoff, but there's enough here to make it worth a viewing at least on DVD or cable. In other words, it's not a career-ending disaster. Federal Investigators Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) and Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) arrive in the middle of rural nowhere to investigate a scene of horrendous violence. There are only three survivors: a volatile, cracker cop (Kent Harper, who co-wrote the script) a pretty blond junkie, Bobbi (Pell James) and a little girl, Stephanie (Ryan Simpkins). The investigators set up three rooms for questioning, and rig up cameras and monitors to record everything. The trio starts the story at the beginning, and in each case we see more dubious activity than anybody wants to talk about. Bobbi talks about a "job interview," which is actually a drug deal, and the cops describe doing their duty, when they actually enjoy shooting out the tires of innocent passerby. Everyone winds up at the same spot by the side of the road, where most of the major characters get mowed down, including characters played by Cheri Oteri and French Stewart. (It turns out that some serial killers are on the loose.) Working with her executive producer dad, the younger Lynch shows a style somewhat similar to his, using silences, staging and camera placement to suggest a constant menace. Then that ending... it's not that I minded it so much, but that Lynch plays it with an almost absurd flourish. It would be funny if we were somehow in on the joke.

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