Worth Seeing Despite Faults

 

Down in the Valley (2006) Review 5
Director:David Jacobson,
Starring:Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood, David Morse, Bruce Dern, and Rory Culkin
Length:125 minutes
Rated:R

 

The San Fernando Valley is what might be termed “darkest suburbia” and there, kids are unhappy because they’re, in general, bored. So how does one relive that situation? A hero must arrive and save these poor kids from this fate-worse-than-death, especially when “Dad” isn’t really dad and seems a bit on the repellent side.

Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood), name’s short for “October,” and Lonnie (Rory Culkin), are two run-of-the-mill teenagers who live with their stepfather Wade (David Morse) who’s a prison guard and wants to keep the kids on a short leash. It’s obvious the kids don’t like him too much. So a hero must come from the West…

…and come he does. We glimpse Harlan Carruthers (Edward Norton) walking down the freeway in his full cowboy gear during the credits, but we actually meet him working at a gas station, where Tobe and her friends stop to refill the tank on the way to the beach. Tobe has a slight case of the hots, invites him along and Harlan decides to quit his job right then and there and come along. Romance blossoms, and soon he and Tobe are hot and heavy, pissing Wade off to no end. Things get worse when Tobe fails to show up one night, and later is arrested by the cops after Harlan borrows a horse from his friend “Charlie” (Bruce Dern) because “Charlie” has never seen him before.

Why the kids trust Harlan more than Wade isn’t that hard to understand, but it’s annoying as hell to have Wade be right which sets it up for Harlan to become a delusional psychotic who must be destroyed at all costs.

The last quarter of the film is a chase, pure and simple, and it’s not all too clear who we’re supposed to sympathize with those on the run. I guess that it’s what we must call a “deep” film, but it’s a major flaw that almost ruins some of the best acting in any film this year. This means that “Down” is worth seeing even with it’s faults.