(2004)3Josh RalskeDavid Gordon Green's Undertow opens with a bang -- a rollicking, psychedelic action credit sequence, complete with split screens, negative images, zooms, and freeze-frames, that could have come out of a 1970s action B-movie like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. It's a head rush, a kinesthetic marvel completely unlike anything in the director's previous work, though the snatch of dialogue it follows, with a teen girl sweetly asking her boyfriend, "Can I carve my name in your face?" could probably only have come from Green. Not only does that chase sequence suggest the heretofore hidden depths of Green's talent (and that of his superb DP, Tim Orr, and editors, Zene Baker and Steven Gonzales), but it has thematic resonance. Unlike a typical chase sequence, in this one, it's never quite clear who's chasing Chris (Jamie Bell), but it's clear that his running is hopeless. He's essentially trying to outrun himself, which pretty much sums up the theme of Undertow, as Chris must know, deep down, that he'll eventually have to face his belligerent uncle, Deel (Josh Lucas), along with his own demons. After the opening credits, the film settles down into a more menacing version of Green's typical swampy Southern romantic lyricism. Rooted in boys' adventure stories, with clear allusions to classics from Huck Finn to The Night of the Hunter, Green's take on the thriller is uniquely his, and it's occasionally an unwieldy mix of bluntly efficient storytelling with poetic dialogue and imagery. The film certainly has its odd, awkward scenes, and it doesn't come together quite with the seamless loveliness of George Washington or All the Real Girls, but it's still memorable, and offers more evidence of the filmmaker's prodigious talent. As one character points out, "Sometimes it's the strange moments that stick with you."