One False Move
1992 Directed by Carl Franklin. Starring Bill Paxton, Cynda Williams, Billy Bob Thorton, Michael Meach, Earl Billings, Jim Metzler.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Aug. 14, 1992
The way the destinies of four people converge in a small Arkansas town in One False Move is nothing short of wondrous. Scripted by Thom Epperson and Billy Bob Thorton, One False Move is about how the past and the present often inexplicably collide in an explosive meeting of regret, fear, and desperation. Starting with some brutally realistic drug murders in Los Angeles and ending in a shootout on the outskirts of a sleepy Ozark town, this film creates a subtle but palpable tension by alternating between two intertwined stories: one of killers on the lam, the other of the lawmen who wait for them. One False Move, however, doesn't play the good guy/bad guy game -- it's much too smart for that. It elicits a little sympathy for a woman who's killed a cop, some contempt for a decent man who's done an indecent thing. Paxton is near-brilliant as the brash, country-boy police chief eager to play cops-and-robbers with the big boys, the two seasoned L.A. police detectives who come to Star City, Arkansas for a showdown with the murderers. The interaction between the big city and the small town underscores the richness of character in this film. Because Paxton's police chief covets the excitement of the detectives' careers, he ingratiates himself in an effort to be one of them; while the detectives envy the simplicity of the good ol' boy life, they can't take their homespun host too seriously. As the movie's femme fatale, Williams is tantalizingly ambiguous: is she really just a good girl with a bad streak of luck or is she really bad to the bone? Director Franklin, who once appeared as an actor on TV's The A-Team, keeps everything in the proper balance here, especially in the execution of the film's finale, an inevitable confrontation brought on by the past and present. Indeed, Franklin's direction is so good that it's no exaggeration to say that One False Move seldom makes one.