A slick visual sense, tight plotting, clever comic relief, and plenty of post-Tarantino playing around with time distinguish this neo-noir thriller from sophomore director Mike Barker. Writer Ted Griffin knows that double-crosses and unreliable narration are the name of the game in this genre, but he still manages to keep the audience guessing with his labyrinth script. It helps that preppy Josh Brolin makes such a believably slimy bachelor and that Reese Witherspoon's cover-girl features and frosty reserve are so indelible. Dead-end settings, picturesque villains, and graphic violence may be stock devices in the playful end of the noir revival, but the PC button-pushing and gender subtext of Best Laid Plans make for a richer, more nuanced viewing experience than we'd get from a straightforward genre effort of similar quality. Special notice should be paid to the performance of Alessandro Nivola, whose poutily handsome features and barely checked intensity also graced Michael Winterbottom's similarly dark I Want You. Best Laid Plans doesn't live up to the quality of that film, but it does mark Barker and Griffin as filmmakers to watch.