Home Video Hovel: One False Move, by Rudie Obias

The hey-day of independent film was in the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s with movies like Slacker, Metropolitan, Bottle Rocket, Do The Right Thing, and others. There was just something about this era of American filmmaking that was really exciting, super creative, and extremely resourceful. The Criterion Collection often highlights films from this era, especially if it’s an underseen film like One False Move. The prestigious boutique home video company released a special edition with a glorious 4K Ultra HD remaster and a handful of bonus features that deepen the appreciation of the 1992 crime film.

Written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, and directed by Carl Franklin, One False Move follows Fantasia (Cynda Williams), Ray (Thornton), and Pluto (Michael Beach), small-time criminals who rob a drug dealer and leave a long line of bodies in their wake, in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, two LAPD detectives, McFeely (Earl Billings) and Cole (Jim Metzler), are in hot pursuit, after they discover the trio are making their way to the rural Star City in Arkansas — where the LA cops team up with local police chief Dale “Hurricane” Dixon (brilliantly played by Bill Paxton). The film features dueling storylines with the criminals making their way from Los Angeles to Arkansas with a drug deal gone wrong in Houston, Texas and law enforcement in Star City waiting in for the trio to make “one false move” and capture them.

It feels so effortless going from scene-to-scene, like a stressful encounter with police on the side of the road to three law enforcement officers laughing, joking, and swapping stories over a long string of beer bottles and whiskey shots. Paxton also showcases his chops as a goofy, casually racist, “aw-shucks” country bumpkin who’s much smarter than he appears. The result is an expertly paced and efficiently told story that doesn’t waste a moment, as each scene unfolds character details and pushes the plot forward at the same time to a thrilling and brutal climax.

One False Move is a prime example of a director and writers working together in tandem to deliver a film that’s chilling, potent, and dripping with tension. The film dabbles in the grayness of criminal underworld and law enforcement and racial undertones that drive each.

The home release is rounded out with trailers, and an audio commentary with Carl Franklin from 1999, an essay titled “Lock Things Up” from author William Boyle (Gravesend, Shoot the Moonlight Out) that provides insight on the film and crime genre fiction as a whole. 

In addition, the film was even the breakthrough for Thornton and Epperson as a writing duo (A Family Thing, The Gift) and Franklin as a director (Devil in a Blue Dress, One True Thing). The Criterion Collection highlights this stardom with a nearly 30-minute video with Thornton and Franklin discussing the making of the movie and how the critical success of the film translated to their careers.

If you’re a fan of neo-noir crime genre films or hard-boiled detective thrillers, then One False Move is a must.

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