Wes Bentley may be more than just another generic hunk, more than a “Hunger Games” and “Ghost Rider” alumnus, more than just the scientist with the “red shirt role” in “Interstellar.”
Not that “After the Fall” does much for his resume. Bentley is a mostly blank-faced hero of this less-than-thrilling thriller about an overextended home owner, husband and father who takes to a life of crime to keep up appearances.
Bill Scanlon is a meticulous guy, carefully going over the claims he works as an Albuquerque insurance claims adjuster. He’s upright, firmer with his kids than his wife (Vinessa Shaw), especially when his tweenage son is caught cheating.
“When we do something wrong, we own up to it. That’s what you do when you’re a man.”
His dad was a cop and we suspect that’s had a big impact on his character
But 15 minutes into the film, we learn that he’s not on the job. Not anymore. He was laid off.
“I need guys who can make it a little more…challenging for people” filing insurance claims, his less ethical boss confesses.
So Bill gets up, puts on a tie and heads out each day, badgering possible employers in the most polite, most pathetic way. His credit cards max out. Chasing the repo creeps who take his SUV in his pajamas is his wake-up call, even if his wife is still somehow without a clue. What’s worse, her rich, disapproving dad (Keith Carradine) is just waiting for him to fail.
That’s when Bill pulls out his dad’s old service revolver. That’s when he thinks about wandering into the subdivided desert where they live to shoot himself. And that’s when he stumbles into a life of crime.
Saar Klein’s film is a “Fun With Dick and Jane” without much of the fun. Bentley’s Bill is a good man going wrong, all poster-slogans about how his sons should try to live their lives.
“Intensity is doing something you hate…like you love it!”
But it’s all unraveling. The petty robberies — aimed at those who “deserve” it, a hooker and her john, the repo guys, a cruel convenience store manager — won’t cover their lifestyle. Bentley only lets Bill start to show emotion as all this gets to him.
Jason Isaacs is a hard-drinking cop who befriends Bill, takes him out target shooting and lectures him on the good life he has and the moral relativism of the world.
“There ain’t no sin. There ain’t no virtue. There’s just things people do.”
Bentley is pretty bland, start to finish, but let’s face it — the screenplay does him no favors. You introduce his career as catching people trying to commit insurance fraud, but you don’t use that expertise in the plot, in Bill’s crimes? That’s not tripping up our expectations. That’s looking a gift horse in the mouth.
The crimes start out polite and almost funny — almost. But this never rises to satire, never evolves into some bigger statement on morality and the world men live in.
And with unemployment below six percent, the “Fall” this is “After” seems instantly dated, robbing the film of whatever relevance and urgency it might have once had on the page.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Cast: Wes Bentley, Jason Isaacs, Vinessa Shaw, Keith Carradine
Credits: Directed by Saar Klein, written by Saar Klein, Joe Conway. A Phase4 Films release.
Running time: 1:50