The Underneath

The Underneath dates from when Soderbergh was making movies on the far edges of the Hollywood grid. This quirky noir concerns Michael Chambers, a ne’er-do-well gambler (played by a wry Peter Gallaghar) who skips town only to return still smitten with his old flame. In a bid to get her back and leave town together, he plots the robbery of an armored car, one that he’s driving, with the intention of making off with his woman along with all the stolen money, before going clean. The plan, of course, gets botched, Michael’s stepfather gets shot, and he himself lands in the hospital. Things go from bed, ahem, bad to worse when Michael finds himself abducted by Tommy, his by-now infuriated former accomplice (an icy-eyed William Fichtner), sending things into a betrayal-laced tailspin. Soderbergh wonderfully, at times hypnotically, paces this indie gem, and Elliot Davis’ photography is luminous; both director and cinematographer have a deft feel for how to meld a crime story into a character-driven melodrama. Underneath stands as one of Soderbergh’s more accomplished projects before hitting it big with Out of Sight. An absorbing, if an occasionally plodding, experience.

Grade: B

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Steven Soderbergh, Daniel Fuchs
Cast: Peter Gallagher, Alison Elliott, William Fichtner, Joe Don Baker, Paul Dooley, Elisabeth Shue, Shelley Duvall

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