Effective and funny, Shimmer Lake is a well-crafted crime thriller unfolding backward in time. It builds its atmosphere slowly and meticulously pulling you further into the inner workings of this little town and its inhabitants. However, after the first five minutes, you simply know this is going to be a good movie. Just seeing Rainn Wilson driving away with a bag full of cash is enough to hook you in. After his breakthrough with the reboot of Mortal Kombat, Oren Uziel wrote screenplays for 22 Jump Street and Freaks of Nature. His next movie is this one, which he also directed. It is a bit high-concepty, as you can feel Oren testing his potential and experimenting with powerful concepts but it works. It works as a thriller and surprisingly enough a heist movie.
Shimmer Lake is basically a small-town crime story with strong Fargo vibes. So, you know what to expect and how the story is going to go. One layer of bizarre situations, one layer of secrets and as a cherry on the top, a strange sense of justice served. The pacing is a bit slower but the mystery behind the first couple of scenes will keep you engaged throughout. It feeds you bits and pieces of information, keeping you hungry for more as you’re trying to figure out what’s going on. The cast is a familiar one. You’ve got Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) and Ron Livingston (Office Space) as the zero-fucks-given FBI agents, Wyatt Russell (Overlord) as crazy Ed, beautiful Stephanie Sigman (Narcos) as Steph, and finally Benjamin Walker as the sheriff.
Andy Sikes just woke up in his basement carefully remaining silent not to reveal his presence there. At the same time, his wife and daughter are talking to his brother Zeke upstairs. Zeke is a sheriff in this little town and he’s on the lookout for a band of criminals on the run. They were involved in a heist just a couple of days ago. After being discovered by his daughter, Andy slowly gets back to his car. Car with a huge duffel bag full of money on the front seat. We’re about to find out how he got it.
Since Shimmer Lake is going back in time to tell its story, there are a couple of running jokes. This gimmick is also effective at generating suspense and making you actually think about what’s going to happen next. As you might have guessed, the story will have a couple of big twists, some expected, some unexpected. There’s also a lot of humor, mostly dark humor. However, you shouldn’t expect the next Pulp Fiction out of it. This is an effective little thriller perfect for those nights where you just want to see something that’s going to keep your attention. The characters are developed but not so much you would feel emotionally distraught if something were to happen to them. A definition of well-balanced storytelling. Again, it’s the details that got me like Deputy’s car troubles or his date with Wendy. Available on Netflix, Shimmer Lake is one click away.
Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, just go down the Coen brothers list. You can also take a look at Hell or High Water, Bottle Rocket and Calibre. Intrigued by the reverse chronology gimmick you might wanna check out classics like Donnie Darko, Identity, Memento and Frailty. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Insomnia and Shutter Island. Enjoy.
Director: Oren Uziel
Writer: Oren Uziel
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Rainn Wilson, Stephanie Sigman, Rob Corddry, Ron Livingston, Adam Pally, Wyatt Russell
Fun Facts: Was listed on a 2009 Black List, featuring most promising scripts that haven’t yet been made.