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Flashbacks and weak story sink The Underneath

The Underneath

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Written by Sam Lowry and Daniel Fuchs; based on the novel Chris Cross by Don Tracy.

Starring Peter Gallagher, Alison Elliott, William Fichner, Adam Trese and Shelley Duvall.

Sony Nickelodeon.


By Matthew E. Konosky
Night Editor

Upon returning to Austin, Texas, Michael Chambers (Peter Gallagher) learns a hard lesson: Although you can always go home, you can never go back to the way things used to be. After a prolonged absence, Michael arrives in town for his mother's wedding and is confronted by all the memories he thought he had left behind, but never quite managed to forget.

He is reunited with his brother, David (Adam Trese) who is still bitter over the evils of Michael's past. He also runs across Rachel (Alison Elliott), the woman he married, only to betray later with his passion for point spreads. Though Michael can't seem to get Rachel out of his head, she's now involved with Tommy Dundee (William Fichtner), a man no one dares cross. But Tommy's attention does not come without a price, so Michael devises a scheme for freeing Rachel from his control once and for all.

Having recently obtained work as an armored car driver along side his father-in-law Ed Dutton (Paul Dooley), Michael plans an armored car heist with the help of Tommy as well as Susan (Elisabeth Shue), a one-night fling Michael met while traveling home to Austin on a bus. All appears to be going according to plan until the heist itself, when Michael is badly wounded.

While undergoing treatment for his multiple injuries at the local hospital, Michael is hailed as a hero. At the same time, suspicions concerning Michael's role in the heist grow. Among those challenging his newly-acquired hero status are his brother David. But before Michael fully recovers, he is kidnapped and taken to meet with Tommy and Rachel at a secluded resort.

Over half of the film is filled with what are supposed to be snapshots of Michael's past. During this time, the viewer is usually asking, "At what time is this supposed to be happening?" Later on, the viewer recognizes that everything preceding the armored car heist is told through a series of flashbacks and many of these scenes begin to fall into place. All told, the film runs only a little over ninety minutes which may, sadly enough, be the film's most redeeming characteristic.

Overall, The Underneath is an uncompelling drama of a man whose obsession with gambling causes him to lose everything he has, including his adoring wife. Its predictable story line makes a feeble attempt to explore Michael's struggle to find someone he can honestly trust.