Shimmer Lake (dir. Oren Uziel, 2017) – Local sheriff Zeke Sikes investigates a bank heist gone wrong, when a trio of small town criminals including his own brother appears to have skipped town.
While a gratifying black comedy, Shimmer Lake comes up short on the characters front.
Touted as an inventive crime thriller told in reverse, Shimmer Lake may risk misleading hopes for a complex mystery noir à la Memento. But the Netflix original could be better off finding a kin in pulp fiction. Expectations are defied in other ways, where the cast of comedians holds off laugh-out-loud humour, in exchange for subtle black comedy.
The genre works well for this grim story that unfolds in a gritty small town. Andy Sikes (Rainn Wilson) is the man of the hour, on the run after a bank heist gone wrong. Leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, the local sheriff – and his very own brother – Zeke (Benjamin Walker) has taken the lead in the manhunt.
Two inept FBI agents Kurt Biltmore (Rob Corddry) and Kyle Walker (Ron Livingston) tag along in the investigation, armed with one-liners and throwaway lines. Dark secrets lie in wait, as with every narrative that chooses to disrupt chronology in its telling.
An apparent gimmick serves well enough as an effective hook, but not much more. After all, it is not difficult to anticipate where the plot is heading. Still, the effective execution is to be commended. The focused narrative never meanders. Tangled ties exist for a clear purpose in tautly constructed scenes, where a past tragedy involves unexpected parties in the game.
It is also an intriguing lead we follow throughout the revelations. While largely used for comic effect, Zeke reveals an interesting hint of sociopathy in his impaired empathy towards his family, as well as his leaving of his partner Reed Ethington (Adam Pally) on the sidelines.
His motives are however never fully explored, but painted with broad strokes. Same goes for the remaining cast, whose absence of genuine sincerity in both actions and relationships frustratingly diminishes necessary pathos.
As with fellow Netflix original Small Crimes, the emotional disconnect ultimately takes away the impact that the resolution could have had. Given how none of the twists comes out of left field, the story ultimately ends up unmemorable. All this makes for few reasons for a revisit. Still, as a directorial debut for Oren Uziel, there is no doubt that Shimmer Lake shows plenty of promise.
The seasoned screenwriter proves his flair for terse storytelling with a tinge of dark humour, appearing close to finding his footing between solemnity and fun. From Mortal Kombat: Rebirth to 22 Jump Street, his credits also show admirable versatility, which should make us reasonably excited for his upcoming Mortal Kombat full reboot.