There is something about a story revolving around the second chance that resonates with most people. For most people there is something in their lives that they feel they need to make amends for. Some of us have taken a wrong path and are grateful for the opportunity to get back on track. In film there are many such stories. The typical scenario involves a man fresh out of prison who is trying to make a new and better life. The film Coastlines by director Victor Nunez is one such tale. It looks at the struggle one man has to reintegrate back into society after a prison sentence. This film attempts to expand beyond the man in question and endeavors to examine the affect his return has upon his family and former friends and cohorts.
The coastline noted in the title is the western coast of Florida. Fronting the Gulf of Mexico instead of the Atlantic Ocean this coast is the less known coastal area. Sonny Mann (Timothy Olyphant) has just been released from prison after serving time for a drug crime. His culpability in the crime is dubious but it is clear that Sonny took the rap to protect his two partners in crime; Fred Vance (William Forsythe) and is hyperactive nephew Eddie (Josh Lucas). While Sonny was away Fred became a local entrepreneur building up remote locations into commercial properties. Initially, all Sonny wants is the $200,000 that is owed to him by the Vances. Of course, Fred tells Sonny that is liquid assets is far less than the demanded sum and he can’t pay. Sonny did not sit in a cell for all those years to take no for an answer and he persists in his claim. Fred may now be a local pillar of the town’s economy but he is still little more than a thug. He reinforces his refusal to pay Sonny by blowing up his family home killing oyster fisherman dad (Scott Wilson). Unable to find any place to live Sonny turns to two of his childhood best friends Dave Lockhart (Josh Brolin) and his now wife Ann (Sarah Wynter). Dave is now a local police office while Ann is a nurse. The pair has two daughters, Rachel (Abigail Mavity) the younger Trish (Caity Elizabeth). Dave has been after the Vances for some time but has always been unable to make a case stick.
When Sonny moves into the Lockhart home he begins to realize that their image of domestic bless is a façade. Ann finds her role as wife and mother tedious. Even her job as a nurse fails to maintain her interest. She sees in Sonny a connection to her wilder younger days, a time she desperately wants to relive. Let’s see; we have a handsome but disinterested husband, a beautiful desperate housewife and a bad boy type from their past. Didn’t I just see this on a certain ABC network television show? Naturally, it doesn’t take long before Sonny and Ann are jumping into bed together. Actually, they wind up rolling around on the kitchen floor. I guess Dave has never seen any movies or TV shows and thought it would be a good idea to bring a ruggedly good looking man into his home. Before things can go further Sonny moves out and finds refuge in the back of a auto repair shop owned by old friend Bob Johnson (Robert Wisdom). Sonny takes a job painting cars but all the while he is plotting his revenge on the Vances. Since the local police and the feds can’t touch them it seems like the perfect time for a little personal pay back.
This is the third installment in a west Florida cost trilogy by writer-director Victor Nunez. The first two films faired much better. In 1993 Ruby in Paradise helped to propel Ashley Judd to public acclaim while the 1997 Ulee's Gold garnered an Oscar nomination for Peter Fonda and helped Jessica Biel begin her acting career. This film, however, is almost aimless. I think I understand what Nunez was trying to do. The laid back format may have been intended to reflect the slower pace of the area. Nunez knows this part of the State well and his understanding of the region and the people there does help to hold the film together. With that being said the pacing just drags. The film moves along slowly but little actual suspense is created. The script is often predictable with little exposition. For example it is unclear whether Ann and Sonny were young lovers. This makes her decision to throw away her stable life beyond what the audience can identify with. Sometimes even a master chef can have the right recipe and great ingredients but the resulting dish just doesn’t live up to expectations. This is the case here; everything was present except the film didn’t gel properly. It may have helped if the film’s genre’s was slanted more to neo-noir.
This is a cast that tries to make the most out of the script. Now Timothy Olyphant is best known for his lead role in the killed before its time HBO western ‘Deadwood’. As Seth Bullock he became the master of the laconic, lone man capable of violence if pushed. Olyphant employs a variation of this theme here as Sonny. Since he took the fall for the crime the audience is afforded some opportunity to become emotionally invested in his character. There is even some justification for his quest for revenge as well as his money. In some respects this great actor just seems to be in the scenes instead of committing fully. Sarah Wynter has recently become a common sight on television with regular spots on 24, The Dead Zone and Windfall. She usually plays the sultry sex object but here she tries to work a more mysterious persona. Josh Lucas does well as the wronged husband and honest cop. He delivers his performance with some emotion. For a villain you can’t do better than William Forsythe. He has a quite side that can explode into violence at the drop of a hat.
The DVD release of this film is another in the growing collaboration between Genius Productions and The Independent Film Channel. While not the best film around it is well worth watching. The audio is in anamorphic 1.85:1 with an acceptable color palette. The Dolby 5.1 audio provides a clear sound field. There are a few delete scenes and a director’s commentary where Nunez goes relies on his personal knowledge and understanding of the location. In all the film will entertain it just could have been a lot more.