"Don’t Watch This"

In the words of Aimée Baker’s recurring blog feature, Don’t watch this.


The Underneath
dir. Steven Soderberg, 1995

Although I love most Soderberg films, this one just never captured me. It begins with a spliced-up narrative jumping quickly between the end of the film and the beginning of the film, but nothing is really happening in either instance, so you can’t feel like Soderberg’s giving you any compelling reasons to stay on board.

Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows get star billing in this film, with his lips providing some unique supporting performances. Elisabeth Shue, Paul Dooley, and Joe Don Baker seem to do everything they can think of to tame the wild eyebrows, but to no avail. They just aren’t as interesting.

The dialogue is quiet, stilted. The performances are, by and large, wooden. You can see Soderberg playing with the ideas that will later come to fruition in the classics Traffic (color-saturated film stock) and Out of Sight (jump cuts, sensual cinematography, and appropriation of the noir tradition), but here, nothing comes together cohesively to make the film consistent or enjoyable.

Let’s just say I wasn’t encouraged to look too far “underneath” the surface of this film, which is a purported remake of the noir classic “Criss Cross.” Soderberg is lightyears better when doing his own stuff.

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