Review: ‘The American Side’ reincarnates film noir


In the director’s statement on the film’s website, Jenna Ricker explains that she was inspired by Hitchcock and 70s conspiracy thrillers, but that wasn’t really my experience. As I started watching The American Side, it became immediately apparent that this was to be film noir reincarnated. Everything from the camera angles, to the music, to the dialogue, perfectly captures that spirit. Or perhaps 70s conspiracy thrillers were inspired by film noir of the 30s and 40s. Nothing is new anymore. It’s just how you can reimagine it.

When Charlie Paczynski’s raven-haired partner is caught in the crossfire of a blackmail scheme gone bad, he trails the prime suspect to the brink of Niagara, only to receive a cryptic warning: ‘what’s happening here you can’t begin to comprehend’… Thrust into a world populated by a whiskey-swilling raconteur (Robert Forster), strangely bonded siblings (Matthew Broderick and Camilla Belle), and a dubious government agent (Janeane Garofalo), Paczynski joins the quest for a long-lost design by enigmatic genius, Nikola Tesla. From the eccentric eavesdropper who gives him his first clue (yes! – that’s Robert Vaughn, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) every door Paczynski forces open raises the stakes. Reminiscent of the conspiracy thrillers of the 70’s, complete with a score by David Shire (The Conversation, All the President’s Men), and packed with nods to Hitchcock and classic noir, The American Side is a jigsaw puzzle mystery, climaxing under the roar of the Falls as the final piece snaps into place.

Rogues-Gallery_Rotation62Style. Everything is just perfect for this. Charlie’s office is the quintessential private detective office, complete with non-working plumbing, glass window door, and one of those old wooden office chairs. It’s dimly lit without a computer in sight. Everyone smokes and there are no mobile phones anywhere. Charlie has a older 70s car, and is outlandishly dressed in mismatched patterned dress shirts and ties. He goes to a local diner and runs to the phone when it rings, saying he knows it’s for him. How awesome is that?

Rogues-Gallery_Rotation4Another one of my favorite scenes was when Charlie is inspecting an apartment. He notices that it’s empty and then immediately goes downstairs to the tenant below. It’s an older man, Robert Vaughn, who gives the detective all the info he needs. That was a big plot device in classic crime movies. If you knew, you’d know.

Rogues-Gallery_Rotation3Women everywhere. There’s a woman waiting for him at his office. A woman stops him on the street. A woman federal agent. This is not something revolutionary for classic cinema. Woman ruled Hollywood in its golden age.

The score was not really to my liking. It is very much in the style of the late 70s and for me it really just underscored the absurdity.

Greg Stuhr is the detective, Charlie, mixed up in a tangled web. The dialogue is well-written, but his delivery doesn’t quite have the bite that the role requires. With the style and the dialogue, this cast didn’t seem to capture the spirit. It’s as if they didn’t know if it should be played straight or with a wink.

tesla-portraitThe real story is of Nikola Tesla. The name Tesla might be more well known as a car company right now, but Nikola Tesla is responsible for basically everything electronic we use everyday. Do yourself a favor and go down the rabbit hole of information at Wikipedia. Beware though, you’ll soon discover that Thomas Edison was really not who you thought he was. Poor elephants.

For anyone not familiar with the older era of cinema, some of the scenes are probably going to come off as comical. Especially where things randomly happen perfectly without any coordination whatsoever. But that is what those films WERE. They were fantasy. They weren’t supposed to give you reality. The American Side will take you back to that world.

Special in-person Q&As at the IFC Center include:

  • Wed May 4 at 7:45pm: composer David Shire, moderated by composer Christopher North
  • Thu May 5 at 7:45pm: Stuhr, moderated by noir expert Foster Hirsch

Review: ‘THE CONFIRMATION’ tackles faith, family, and forgiveness.

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In Select Theaters and On Demand Friday, March 18th 

The Confirmation poster

Clive Owen shines in this irresistible comedy as Walt, a down-on-his luck carpenter tasked with entertaining his eight-year-old son Anthony while Anthony’s mom (Maria Bello) and her new husband are away. But when Walt’s prized toolbox is stolen, a quiet father-and-son weekend turns into an adventure of a lifetime. Aided by an oddball drywall repairman (Patton Oswalt), Walt and Anthony go on a wildly funny search for the thieves—and find something they never imagined: a true family connection. Also featuring performances by Matthew Modine, Robert Forster, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Tim Blake Nelson.

clive owen and jeadan LieberherOn the heels of his beautiful script for Nebraska, writer/director Bob Nelson brings heart and levity to what might otherwise seem to be a mundane scenario. The estrangement of an alcoholic father and his young son is nothing new, but by adding a religious element to the mix, it makes for a funny and honest look into the innocence of a child’s mind. Clive Owen‘s portrayal of Walt is raw and real. You empathize with his struggle to do right by his son. Speaking of Anthony, St. Vincent prodigy Jaeden Lieberher is, once again, a star. His purity in presence and intention glow as a young boy thrust into religion by his Mother. Caught in between parents of opposite end spectrum, he is an old soul, yet is constantly discovering when it is okay to push social boundaries. Owen and Lieberher are a perfect pairing. Nelson’s script allows both actors to take the reins as the story progresses. Each character has the opportunity to emotionally care for the other in a truly lovely dynamic.

LOL_0537The subtlety of the film is what makes it so successful. In an era of overblown CGI fare, Bob Nelson gives us an honest to goodness family story. The Confirmation is a joy.

The Confirmation Trailer from Saban Films on Vimeo.

In Select Theaters and On Demand Friday, March 18th 


BOB NELSON is a screenwriter, director, and producer, whose script “Nebraska” was produced in 2013 for Paramount Pictures and directed by Alexander Payne.  The film starred Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, and Stacy Keach.  It was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay, and received the Best First Screenplay award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

 In 2016 Saban Films is releasing Nelson’s directorial debut from his original screenplay, The Confirmation,” starring Clive Owen, Maria Bello, Patton Oswalt, Matthew Modine, Tim Blake Nelson, Robert Forster, and Stephen Tobolowsky.

The TV pilot he wrote and executed produced for Amazon, “Highston,” has been picked up for a full season and will premiere in 2017.  It’s directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and stars Lewis Pullman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chris Parnell, and Curtis Armstrong.

Before screenwriting, Nelson was a journalist, talk radio producer, and wrote for Comedy Central, Fox Television, VH-1, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Nelson was a performer in the original Bill Nye PBS series, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and a writer and performer for “Eyes of Nye.”

In the 1990s, Nelson was a cast member, writer, director, and segment producer for the iconic Seattle sketch show, “Almost Live!” on the NBC affiliate KING-TV.  The program was named the best local program in the United States for several years and won over 100 Emmys.  Nelson received five Emmys for writing and one for performing.  Besides a two year run on Comedy Central, “Almost Live!” was twice syndicated nationally.

Nelson was born in Yankton, South Dakota and grew up in the Seattle, Washington area.  He currently lives on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, with his wife Valerie.


New Trailer: Antonio Banderas As A Futuristic Insurance Agent In ‘Automata’

Automata posterIn Theaters and On Demand 10/10/14

Starring: Antonio Banderas (The Expendables 3, Machete Kills)Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (Pitch Perfect 2)Melanie Griffith (Working Girl), Dylan McDermott(American Horror Story), Robert Forster (Olympus Has Fallen, The Descendants),Andy Nyman (Kick Ass 2)Tim McInnerny (Notting Hill)David Ryall (Quartet), Lubomir Neikov (War Inc.)Harry Anichkin (The Expendables 3) and Andrew Tiernan (300: Rise of an Empire)

Written & Directed By: Gabe Ibáñez Read More →