Netflixable? Rainn reigns in “Shimmer Lake”


Andy wakes up in his basement, washes his face and when his little girl Sally sees him, enlists her in his conspiracy of silence.

Because Uncle Zeke is in the house, with Andy’s wife (Angela Vint). Andy’s “missing.” Uncle Zeke (Benjamin Walker) is a cop, the sheriff, and he’s on the case. And suspicious.

Something, we don’t know what, went down at “Shimmer Lake.” But as we know Andy’s played by Rainn Wilson, and we see a fellow sheriff’s deputy have a hissy fit, we know this is funny, or supposed to be — a dark comedy.

There’s a dark and sultry femme fatale (Stephanie Sigman). She’s married to a real tough guy (Wyatt Russell).

Rob Corddry and Ron Livingston are FBI agents who join the case and puzzle out what’s going on. “So, they robbed the bank, came back and stole the banker?”

Judge Dawkins “owns First Mackey Bank.” Judge Dawkins (John Michael Higgins) is lying in a pool of it on his kitchen floor.

The Feds think Banker Andy was in on the bank job, Zeke is sure his brother wasn’t in on it. Bad blood between them is…unavoidable.

“No no no, the CAMARO was black and the SUSPECTS are white.”

This grey, atmospheric black comedy, in which “Surprise is for the ill-prepared,” is a rarely funny tale told out of order. It’s a fall film broken into chapters denoting days of the week, beginning with “Friday: Andy Heads for the Lake.” Wednesday comes later. Tuesday, after that. Characters are “introduced” after we’ve seen them die. We think.

That’s a little confusing, as we see people shot and/or dead and then pop up two scenes down the road and wonder where we are on the timeline. Hey, I’ve done this for a living forever. If I’m confused, it’s needlessly confusing. Take that to the First Mackey Bank.

Day-episodes come and go, the femme fatale does what femme fatales do, bodies drop here and there and Heaven Only Knows where all this is heading as layers add upon layers and the incestuous nature of small town business, government and law enforcement congeal around the crime. Nobody smells like roses in this corner of rural America.

“We got a dead body in a county that doesn’t get dead bodies…”

The jokes include a violent toilet accident, the sheriff cussing in front of his cute niece (Isabel Dove) who repeats what she hears for a cheap laugh. A running gag? The deputy sheriff (Adam Pally), the one who throws a tantrum, is constantly having to sit in the caged back seat of the towns lone cruiser. Daffiness intrudes when the Feds show up, and the heist itself has that potential.


But writer-director Oren Uziel does a better job of keeping it (somewhat) interesting than he does at building suspense (deflated by telling the tale out of order), creating urgency or developing a single character we can identify with and/or root for.

Ill-tempered, cursing their kids, prone to violence. Well, not all of them.

The performances range from unconvincing to not-quite-compelling, with Wilson the sole standout.

Uzeil makes the fatal mistake of trying so hard to out-smart the viewer than he forgets to get the basics — tone, an engaging villain (villains), motivations.

All of which adds up to a heist thriller that isn’t thrilling or particularly witty, but on that “Well, we’ve seen everything else” scale, right on the cusp of “Netflixable.”


MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence

Cast: Rainn Wilson, Benjamin Walker, Stephanie Sigman, John Michael Higgins, Rob Corddry and Ron Livingston

Credits: Written and directed by Oren Uziel. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:27

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