One False Move Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Southern Discomfort

Carl Franklin’s work is a blind spot for me, sad to say. While the acclaimed filmmaker has only a few directorial efforts under his belt, several of his features have been brought up in at least one conversation I’ve had with people – namely Devil in a Blue Dress with Denzel Washington. But thanks to boutiques such as the Criterion Collection, his work is becoming more accessible to me and others who may have overlooked his work.

One False Move is a tensely directed thrill ride that slowly builds to its most captivating moments. And when it reaches them, boy, do they come at you with a sucker punch. It’s amazing that this film, which came out the same year as The Crying Game and Reservoir Dogs, never got the same level of attention. It’s just as deserving.

While Billy Bob Thornton may almost seem too obvious of a casting choice now as a criminal, there’s a particular reason why he is mostly given those roles. He’s fantastic as whatever villainous person he is playing. His turn in season one of the Fargo television series is just one example. And, if you’re curious how he was when he was just breaking into the industry, One False Move shows you that he pretty much broke through the gates with fire and tenacity.

In the film, Thornton plays Ray. Along with Fantasia (Cynda Williams) and Pluto (Michael Beach), the three of them are seeking out money and cocaine in Los Angeles. They’ve committed six murders thus far, and once their prized possessions have been acquired, they hightail it to Houston, Texas to sell the cocaine to one of Pluto’s friends.

Word gets around that the three of them may be heading for Star City, Arkansas, a small town where a crime such as the one Ray and his trio committed hardly happens. So, when the Police Chief Dale Dixon (Bill Paxton) gets the call from LAPD, he’s as ecstatic as can be. He sees this as his big shot with the big guys, even though the two detectives they send, McFeely (Earl Billings) and Cole (Jim Metzler), scoff at the idea. They are mainly there for the case.

Franklin’s smooth direction makes this an exciting ride, with a lot of what seems to be expertly crafted shots. The surprising thing here is, One False Move was his third feature film. But it feels like Franklin had been a long-tenured veteran at that point. The early robbery scene features a spectacular tracking shot inside the home that captures the viewer right away.

As mentioned, Thornton is superb in his role as are Williams and Beach. But it’s Paxton’s presence that makes us realize how wonderful he was in his performances and how much he is missed.

The Criterion Collection has done a spectacular job bringing One False Move to Blu-ray. The picture quality is a 4K restoration of the original print, which Franklin approved himself. It looks clean and crisp, with very little notice of any grain or other imperfections. The soundtrack is a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio track, which captures every line of dialogue and every sound effect perfectly. Available on 4K UHD and Blu-ray, the latter disc contains the special features.

The special features in this new release include:

• Audio commentary from 1999 featuring Franklin

• New conversation between Franklin and cowriter-actor Billy Bob Thornton

• Trailer

• English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

• PLUS: An essay by author William Boyle

One False Move is an exceptional thriller, and one that is worthy of more attention. With this new release from Criterion, let’s hope it gets the attention it deserves.

David Wangberg

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