BEST LAID PLANS. 20th Century Fox, 1999. Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin. Writer: Ted Griffin. Director: Mike Barker. Available on DVD and currently streaming on HBO/HBO Max.

   For the first hour or so, I thought Best Laid Plans was a rather derivative, but watchable and hip Quentin Tarantino-inspired crime film. Then I started to get much more into the movie, which isn’t that difficult considering the three talented actors whose characters made up the core love triangle in the film. And finally, I ended up frustrated and disillusioned, realizing that (SPOILER ALERT) the entire movie wasn’t simply a deconstruction of film noir tropes, but rather a gimmick. And the simple truth about gimmick movies is this. Once you’ve seen it, you have no desire to ever watch it again.

   Such it is with Best Laid Plans. What becomes a juicy 90s thriller turns into a farce. On paper, it probably sounded good. A small-town loser named Nick (Alessandro Nivola) enlists his girlfriend Lissa (Reese Witherspoon) into an ill-fated scheme in which she will seduce his college buddy Bryce (Josh Brolin). The plan is to falsely accuse Bryce of rape so that the scheming young couple can steal from Bryce. But it all goes horribly wrong. Such is the way in the world of neon-soaked small town desert noir. There are some admittedly good moments in here and Brolin, in particular, disappears into his character.

   That said, it all comes apart in a big way in the last ten minutes. Everything you think you saw was a lie. No, it wasn’t all a dream (another cheap way to ruin a plot). But it’s pretty darn close. Close enough that it doesn’t surprise me that the film apparently did poorly at the box office. It’s a real shame, because the film had a lot going for it. That exceptional cast in particular.