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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Review: Leaves Of Grass (15) ★★★★
An Ivy League professor is lured back to his Oklahoma hometown, where his twin brother, a small-time pot grower, has concocted a scheme to take down a local drug lord.


Leaves Of Grass is a strange little movie. Pitch black humour, outrageous bursts of violence, Jewish drug lords and characters that at times need subtitles. Its a bundle of things all tied together by Ed Norton in a duel role of twin brothers and I think it's because of him that the film works.

Norton plays both Bill and Brady Kincaid, one (Bill) a well respected Ivy league professor, the other (Brady) a small town drug dealer who haven't seen each other for many years. Bill receives a phone call stating that his brother has been killed in a strange cross-bow accident and thus heads back to his home town to grieve with his mother (Susan Sarandon). Of course Brady hasn't been killed, its a cunning ploy to get Bill home so that he can  help with a drug baron (Richard Dreyfuss) who Brady owes money to. From here on in is where the craziness really starts.

Norton is just terrific and plays both parts to perfection, and needs to as these two characters are the anchor for the film. Bill a straight talking, well punctuated professor and Brady a rough redneck whose southern country drawl is so thick you really need to concentrate to understand what is being said. Its a credit to Norton to switch between characters on the same film, each polar opposites of the other. A lesser actor would have made this seem unbelievable and have viewers switching off, not Norton, he's top draw and effortlessly it seems pitches it perfect. Susan Sarandon downplays the role of the mother that was never was a mother to the boys growing up well and doesn't overact like in The Lovely Bones. Richard Dreyfuss as the Jewish Drug Lord plays his brief part well, its always good to see him in any movie.

Tim Blake Nelson, who directs and stars as Brady's sidekick, controls the film with a steady hand and lets the story flow. He's worked with the Coen Brothers before on O' Brother Where Art Thou and it shows, he's picked up some useful techniques and at times Leaves could be mistaken for a Coen black comedy. This isn't a bad thing, this is most definitely a good thing, nothing wrong with learning from arguably the masters of this style of film making.

The comedy, as mentioned, is pitch black and the sudden switch from laughs to gasps happens in a blink of an eye, honestly you won't see what's coming before your left open jawed at the outcome. Its this kind of storytelling that keeps viewers riveted, you just don't know what's coming and that I feel is the secret to a really good film.

This is a solid debut from Blake Nelson, albeit held together by Norton, so it's going to be interesting to see what he does next.


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