South of Heaven

Written by Alexander Reams

79/100

Jason Sudeikis is primarily known for his comedy. From his tenure at SNL and countless comedies including, but not limited to, We’re the Millers, The Change-Up, and Horrible Bosses. However for a time now, Sudeikis has been doing smaller, indie films that show off his dramatic side (Colossal, where he plays a wonderfully dark metaphor on alcoholism’s hold on a person and a toxic, manipulative relationship, and Race). Now mixing the two with his truly breathtaking eponymous role in Ted Lasso. (aka the best thing to hit TV screens since we first heard “Woke Up This Morning” on a certain New Jersey-centered show). Now he culminates this run of indie films with a film with a lot of big names, but still small at heart. 

Following a 12-year prison sentence, Jason Sudeikis’ Jimmy Ray is released from prison and has one goal; spend the next year with his girlfriend/fiancee/sweetheart, Annie, played wonderfully by Evangeline Lily. This plan seemingly goes off without a hitch, sans the gorgeous Shea Wigham as a less-than morally sound parole officer, Schmidt, who hangs over Jimmy like his sins of the past. Eventually convinces the parolee to do a “favor” for Schmidt, which ends up spiraling Jimmy, and ends with him reverting to old habits. These old habits attract the attention from the mysterious and impeccably dressed Whit Price, portrayed serviceably by Mike Colter. 

These preceding actions are impeccably written, clearly understanding their lead actors, supporting, not as much. As much as I love Mike Colter, I’m not sure he was the best choice to play Whit, and Shea Whigham feels like he is playing the same character he has in countless other films. Sudeikis is given so much meat to work with, and he takes advantage of this, chewing up the scenery every chance he gets, with one standout being a scene with a kid over a turkey sandwich. This scene particularly is my personal favorite, giving a break between all the chaos that has been occurring, and allowing the audience to breathe. 

Standing with Sudeikis is a serivacably written Evangeline Lily and Mike Colter. While they do the best they can, the script just doesn’t hold up to muster. Which is unfortunate because the score, David Fleming channeling old school westerns in a modern world and the cinematography by Mike Mitchell, gorgeously captures the small town world that these characters occupy. I could not get past the writing that undercut Whigham, Lily, and Colter, a tragedy really, when you have such quality actors, but give them bare-bones to work with. Thankfully after all of this we are left with a truly world class turn by Sudeikis, who, by the end of this, has to answer the question “How far would you go for love?”

South of Heaven Trailer

South of Heaven is currently playing in limited theatrical release and is available to rent on VOD through limited providers.

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