Best Laid Plans (1999) / Thriller-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Gene Woland
Director: Mike Barker
Screenplay: Ted Griffin
Review published March 10, 2000
Alfred Hitchcock dubbed the Master of Suspense for his ability to play the audience like a piano. Hitchcock also made masterpieces. It seems many of today's filmmakers are more interested in playing the audience that they neglect what they are supposed to be doing -- making good movies, too. Best Laid Plans is the latest in a long line of thrillers in the late 90s that exist merely as an instrument for filmmakers to try to fool us, creating little more substantial than an enigmatic diversion.
Best Laid Plans is a low budget thriller, so you expect that, like most low-budget thrillers, it's probably going to another of the seedy neo-noir variety. This one revolves around Nick (Nivola, Face/Off), a loser caught in a low-paying job in a small and inconsequential town. He had counted on his recently deceased father's inheritance to get him out of this hellhole, but due to a loophole, the insurance company gets out of having to pay. Nothing seems to go right for Nick until he meets Lissa (Witherspoon, Election), a young vet assistant who loves Nick, even if he is a loser. Nick is offered a way to make some easy money as a driver of a getaway car for a friend who is scamming a drug dealer. Things turn out badly when the drug dealer vows to get his money back, and Nick has but a short time to get it or his life is in jeopardy. Nick and Lissa concoct a plan to scam money themselves off of an old college friend by threatening to frame him for statutory rape. Sometimes the best laid plans just aren't good enough.
With some decent actors and an admirable job by Barker (Shattered, A Good Woman) as director, it's basically Ted Griffin's (Ocean's 11, Matchstick Men) script that lets this one down. There are a few twists and turns but really none you haven't seen before. Best Laid Plans does tick by with ease, yet never rises above the level of run-of-the-mill fare. Witherspoon is her usual appealing self, an actress that seems to play the good girl and bad girl with equal conviction.
The biggest irony about Best Laid Plans is Nick's occupation of working at a recycling plant, since the plot is basically nothing but recycled bits of much better films. With nothing original to show, the by-the-numbers film plays the audience more like a player-piano than from the hands of master artists.
©2000 Vince Leo