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Undermind

Nevil Dwek's feature debut, "Undermind" is a smart, slickly made psychological thriller, with plot similarities to films like "Sliding Doors" and "Happenstance." Evocatively shot by cinematographer Wolfgang Held, and with pro performances all around, pic is deserving of a cable release, if not select arthouse distribution.

With:
Derrick Hall/Zane Waye - Sam Trammell Ian - Erik Jensen Olivia/Lucy - Susan May Pratt Mrs. Hall/Mrs. Winters - Celia Weston Mr. Cox/Captain Ferguson - Jon Devries Shark/Roger - Aasif Mandvi Anya - Tara Subkoff Gordon - Peter Giles Flynn - Ellen Pompeo Dylan - Michael Ryan Segal Sam - Jeffrey Emerson Ray - Guillermo Diaz Baxter - David Frank Dr. Peters/Gunman - Rocco Sisto Mary - Aliya Campbell Jimmy Dimes - Steven Gevedon Jules - Mike Hodge

Nevil Dwek’s feature debut, “Undermind” — winner of best feature at both the Dances With Films and the Stony Brook Film Festival — is a smart, slickly made psychological thriller, with plot similarities to films like “Sliding Doors” and “Happenstance.” Evocatively shot by cinematographer Wolfgang Held, and with pro performances all around, pic is deserving of a cable release, if not select arthouse distribution.

Sam Trammell plays Derrick Hall, a second-generation corporate lawyer tired of trying to fill his father’s shoes. He hates his job, but doesn’t know what he wants. Between pressures from his domineering mother (Celia Weston) and his loving fiance (Susan May Pratt), he’s ready to implode.

Intriguingly, these introductory scenes with Derrick are intercut with other sequences that seem to have wandered in from another movie. Is that Derrick, looking tougher and more unkempt, hiring a hit man to kill his brother? But Derrick doesn’t have a brother …

About 20 minutes into the film, it becomes clear the guy hiring the hit man is Zane Waye, Derrick’s physical twin in a parallel universe. Zane is a heist man, frustrated musician, and all-around cad — the opposite of Derrick.

The two somehow have switched places, waking up disoriented in each other’s worlds. (Dwek doesn’t even attempt an explanation of the mechanics of the switch.) Neither seems well equipped to deal with the situation: Derrick is all frustration and indecision; Zane is action and impulse. Each is half of a balanced personality: The question is whether, between their halves, they can create two wholes.

“Undermind” is basically a feature-length “Twilight Zone” episode, but it never feels pointlessly protracted. Some of the resolution is predictable, but Trammell’s performance lends a degree of poignancy that makes the journey worthwhile. He gets able support from familiar players like Weston (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”) and Pratt (“Center Stage”). Tech credits are polished.

Undermind

Production: A Vertical Pictures presentation of a double A Films production. (International sales: The Film Sales Co., New York.) Produced by Fred Bernstein, Mark Tarlov. Executive producer, Roger Smith. Directed, written by Nevil Dwek.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe Color, Moviecam), Wolfgang Held;editor, Andrew Weisblum; music, Joel Goodman; music supervisor, Beth Rosenblatt; production designer, Deana Sidney; art director, Ben Conable; set decorator, Elizabeth Meyerson; costume designer, Marie Abma; sound (Dolby Digital), Thomas Varga. Reviewed at Dances With Films, Los Angeles, July 28, 2003. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: Derrick Hall/Zane Waye - Sam Trammell Ian - Erik Jensen Olivia/Lucy - Susan May Pratt Mrs. Hall/Mrs. Winters - Celia Weston Mr. Cox/Captain Ferguson - Jon Devries Shark/Roger - Aasif Mandvi Anya - Tara Subkoff Gordon - Peter Giles Flynn - Ellen Pompeo Dylan - Michael Ryan Segal Sam - Jeffrey Emerson Ray - Guillermo Diaz Baxter - David Frank Dr. Peters/Gunman - Rocco Sisto Mary - Aliya Campbell Jimmy Dimes - Steven Gevedon Jules - Mike Hodge

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