Friday, October 3, 2008

FILM REVIEW OF "11:14" (2003)

First-time writer & director Greg Marcks' suspenseful crime saga "11:14" (*** out of ****) belongs to a sub-genre of accident movies that feature an ensemble cast in a spatially fractured story that rearranges events to heighten its impact. This is one of those contemporary movies that contain five apparently unrelated plots that all converge at fourteen minutes after eleven P.M with dire results for the participants. Mind you, "11:14" isn't a big, socially-conscious, important movie, but its cast is first-rate, including Patrick Swayze, Barbara Hershey, Hilary Swank, and Henry Thomas. Incidentally, Hilary Swank served as one of the producers on it, and Marcks' directing is sure, certain, and swift with all the action clocking in at a trim 86 minutes. The openingcredits with racing sequences along the streets is visually appealing.

The movie opens with Jack (Henry Thomas of "E.T.") cruising along in his car late one evening without a care in the world when something suddenly springs out of nowhere and smashes into the front of his vehicle. Through the windshield, Jack spots a deer crossing sign. When he climbs out of his car to check the damage, he discovers to his surprise and chagrin that the animal is actually a human body. Hastily, Jack pitches the fifth of liquor that he had been nursing into the nearby woods on the roadside and sets about to dispose of the body. No sooner has he begun this unsavory task than a friendly, helpful, female motorist, Norma (Barbara Hershey of "The Stunt Man") wheels up alongside him and offers to alert the local constabulary with her cell phone. Jack lies and says that he has notified the law already, but Norma points out that the chief of police is her personal friend. She calls in the accident. After Norma has driven away, Jack hurriedly stuffs the stiff into the trunk of his car. Just as Jack is about to drive away, he sees blue lights fill his rear view mirror. Officer Hannagan (Clark Gregg of "One Hour Photo") initially believes that Jack is trying to cart the deer off when he learns to his shock that the body is that of a girl. This has been a trying night for Hannagan who has just made an arrest in a convenience store robbery and his two prisoners in the back of his cruiser.

"11:14" qualifies as one of those movies that you cannot reveal much about it or you wind up blunting the impact. Other story lines include three teens joyriding in their parents' mini-van. One of the sarcastic passengers winds up losing an essential body private part when it is severed from his body in an accident.

This concise and compelling drama with a wealth of irony is worth watching no matter how old you are and it holds up well on repeated viewings. Of course, some of the stuff is incredible, such as the kid who dies when a stone angel in a graveyard falls on his face during intercourse and kills him. Nevertheless, the characters here are very interesting.

Barbara Hershey radiates in an all-too-brief role as Patrick Swayze's wife. Meanwhile, Swayze excels as a father worried about his daughter's amorous exploits and the low-life scum that she dates. "11:14" ranks as one of Swayze's best roles in years. Hilary Swank steals the show as a wacky convenience store clerk who cannot lie even when lying could keep her out of jail. Shawn Hatosy is credible as the agitated boyfriend and Rachel Leigh Cook is superb as Swayze's sexually active daughter.

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