South of Heaven represents a thrilling neo-noir addition to the mostly comedic-leaning filmography of Jason Sudeikis. While I loved seeing him stretch his dramatic wings, I am not sure this was really the most successful project or match. How do you retread the same ground as so many other crime thrillers and still come up with something new and fresh? Once you have seen one angry-drug-kingpin-seeks-revenge movie, you have pretty much seen them all. Nevertheless, I did find there to be a few stand-out sequences, and I really enjoyed the performances from both Sudeikis and Lost treasure, Evangeline Lilly.
After getting out on parole, Jimmy (Sudeikis) vows to give the childhood love of his life, Annie (Lilly), an amazing final year, as she is very sick from cancer. It has been a long twelve years behind bars, and thusly super easy for Jimmy to fall back into old habits. By some twist of fate, Schmidt (Shea Whigham) forces Jimmy via blackmail to do a simple job: go by an address and pick up a bag! Easy enough, right? What could possibly go wrong? Two grams of coke later, Jimmy heads back with the package in tow, and here is where things get really interesting. Jimmy accidentally hits a guy zooming his way on a motorcycle, killing the man in a brutal fashion. Price (Mike Colter) is this movie’s version of a drug kingpin, and it turns out the man on the bike was one of his couriers who failed to “delivery a commodity.” The “commodity” happens to be in the form of $500,000! With his “package” missing and his sights set on retrieving it, Price locks Jimmy firmly in his crosshairs.
The acting ranges from good to great in South of Heaven from virtually all involved (and proof that Sudeikis can convincingly pull off just about every type of random accent). Annoyingly, this movie suffers from the same syndrome as Netflix’s Luke Cage—playing a bait and switch with the primary villain halfway through. It bothered me then, and it still irks me now. By waiting so long to introduce Price (I believe it was almost the halfway point), forming any connection to him becomes difficult indeed. As much as I love Evangeline Lilly, she is all but wasted here. Her character is not fleshed out enough to make a mark. While the majority of South of Heaven is paced slowly, a big action blowout in the finale proves to be well worth the wait.
Originally titled Till Death (strangely enough, much more fitting), I did not find any glaring plot issues that pulled me out of the movie; rather, I was mostly just lukewarm on the whole affair. Ultimately, South of Heaven is missing an extra edge or a kick of spice to elevate it amongst a crop of similar-style movies. The main draw then becomes the cast; while they all do a great job as previously mentioned, there is no hiding the inherent hollowness of the script. The ending did leave me with a smile, and I guess these days, that is really all one can hope for.
Get ready to nail-gun yourself to the seat, as South of Heaven debuts in limited release theaters on Friday, October 8th.