Rated R, 101 min. Directed by Mark Fergus. Starring Guy Pearce, Piper Perabo, William Fichtner, J.K. Simmons, Shea Whigham, Rick Gonzalez, Jackie Burroughs.
Fate: It’s one of those four-letter words that movie heroes commonly scoff at. Are our fates sealed by the gods, or can we choose our own destinies and/or outrun the inevitable? These age-old questions provide the basis for much classic literature and many great film dramas – in particular, gangster movies and other stories colored by a film-noir ethos. And so too, fate is the big question mark hanging over the head of Jimmy Starks (Pearce), the hero of First Snow. A moody thriller, First Snow follows in the footprints of this cinema of fatalism, yet it brings little new to the genre apart from another outstanding performance by Pearce, whose slick salesman Jimmy has the nerve to challenge his fate. While waiting for his car to be repaired, Jimmy passes the time with a visit to a roadside palm reader (Simmons, also good), who tells him a couple of things that Jimmy believes cannot possibly come true. Then the fortune-teller slips into a seizurelike state from the untold doom he sees in Jimmy’s palm. Back home, once the things the palm reader foretold actually come true, Jimmy becomes spooked and wonders all the more about the mysterious phone calls he’s been receiving and that menacing target-practice sheet that arrived at his door. He suspects an old friend who has just been released from prison for a crime for which both men were responsible. The desultory narrative remains vague and unspecific as to the past events, as well as various character details. I think this was a conscious choice of first-time director Fergus (who, with Hawk Ostby, co-wrote the screenplay, as well as being a member of one of the writing teams to have worked on Children of Men). However, the jaggedness of Jimmy’s mental state doesn’t jibe with the haziness of the script. Well-captured (by cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards) is the look and mood of the Albuquerque, N.M., area in which First Snow is set, but too many of the shots are the type of cliché low-angle-with-overhead-fan images that practically scream the character’s doom. First Snow tries hard but lacks originality.
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