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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Spawn Of the Living Dead

A Little Trip to Heaven on IMDb

Plot Overview

binderEarly on we are disabused of any notion that con artists are cute for their cleverness. They're in a dog-eat-dog world like criminals in a John O'Hara story:

I want to put in a warning to those readers who may still retain an impression of those days and those people that may be charming, but has nothing to do with the truth. Broad­way was really not populated by benevolent book­makers who gave all their money to the Salvation Army, and boot­leggers who were always looking around for a paraplegic news­boy who needed surgery, and crap­shooters who used their tees and miss-outs—crooked dice—in order to finance a chapel. There is some­thing about the words rogue and rascal that brings a smile to the eyes of people who never spent any time with rogues and rascals. And I have never been able to accept the paradox of the prostitute who was faithful to one man. The big shots and the smallies that I saw—and I saw dozens of them—were unprincipled, sadistic, murderous, bullies; often sexually perverted, diseased, some­times drug addicts, and stingy. The women were just as bad, except when they were worse. (361-2)

snowball fightmischievous
boy w/slingpenguin on skismom, dad, babymovingKelvin Anderson and his sister Isold made mischief in high school, enough to get him sent home for. After finishing there they became con artists, notably a broken leg insurance scam that netted them $20K (with a lot of pain.) Kelvin got sent away but escaped and went on the lam. No-one has seen him since. Isold (Julia Stiles) is still listed as the sole beneficiary of his $1 million life insurance policy. She has returned to the sorry town of Hastings, Minnesota with a low life husband Fred (Jeremy Renner) in tow and a son Thor (Alfred Harmsworth.) Fred runs a shady garage. He needs to up his game and the insurance scams have put them on a slippery slope.

O'hara tackles the same kind of problem in a story of his:
This coffee-and-cakes mobster, he hasn't got enough dough to keep her in bath salts. So he's going to have to get big all of a sudden, and how do you get big in his racket? You know as well as I do. From where he is, you start by killing some­body. That's the only way to make a fast big score. Homicide. (367)
For a life insurance scam, the corpse needs to be unidentifiable (“That could be anybody.”) As O'Hara notes;
One man with half his face shot away and curled up in the back of a sedan looks much the same as another man who died in the same circum­stances. A man who had been soaked with gasoline as well as stabbed or shot may be —, but I could only guess. (359–60)

photographerIsole makes an ill-advised guess on the dead man's identity, which will net her the claim money, but insurance adjustor Abe Holt (Forrest Whitaker) smells a rat and pursues it like their bulldogs school mascot.


The film is framed by disappointments. First, one Mrs. Rodriguez (María Fernández Ache) with her boy (Kharl Anton Leigh) sitting next to her gasps, “After twenty years of payment, this can't be right,” when insurance associate Frank (Peter Coyote) shorts her on her benefit. And near the close Isold like­wise complains (“I need that money”) when she doesn't get the big benefit she was expecting. It's like (Prov. 30:15-16) “The horse­leach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.”

tombstonesenior busThe grave is never full, people keep on dying. That's what life insurance policies are for. The Quality Life Insurance Company runs a TV ad asking, “What would happen to your loved ones if you died? Would they be protected?” It shows a young couple (Björn Stefánsson & Signy Kristinsdóttir) cavorting in the park with a side shot of two old people (Birgir Sigurdsson & Margrót Élafsdóttir), presumably their dependent relatives, on a bench.

The barren womb is like to produce more babies for trying. Isold mentions, “It's just that time or the month.” She already had her first unexpectedly. It's the young and the very old who are so dependent (“crying, Give, give.”)

“The earth that is not filled with water” is tillable land, after the water of Noah has receded. Abe accosts one neighbor who is “just trying to get some­thing to grow around here.” She is “trying to squeeze out every drop from this frozen land.” We also need a roof for dry inside work. As it's put in an O'Hara story, “In this weather Goldstein kept the Sunday papers inside. In the summer­time the papers were piled on boards in front of the store and you helped your­self, but on a sloppy day like this—rain, snow, gusts of wind—you had to go inside” (350–1). At one point in the movie Isold falls through a rotted roof when it's raining outside.

“The fire that saith not, It is enough.” That is human metabolism, a fire that burns all the time and must be fed. It's amply illustrated when a trashy barmaid Josie (Joanna Scanlan) slow dances with Abe to “It's Cold Outside” from the juke box. Now, there's a woman who could keep a fellow warm at night.

dish washingThe fuel (food) that somebody has to work to provide is pictured throughout the picture. First we have, “Thor, breakfast!” “Your mom's calling.” And later there's, “You hungry? Let's get you a sandwich, okay?” At the diner his dad buys him a milk shake. Somebody cleans up the dishes at home. An elderly couple is served donuts at another diner.

MadonnaThe tension in this movie derives from necessary care of dependents, with insurance for contingencies. But the insurance company is “concerned with the bottom line just like any other business.” What they pay out has to be covered by what they take in, plus some investment yield, which the way they do business is like some­thing O'Hara describes, “money, she knew, [that] had come from shrewd deals involving depletions and depreciations and dodges” (354.) People hedge their bets, some­times murderously so. This insurance company is far from regulatory scrutiny, and nobody's a saint, except perhaps mothers at times. Abe concedes, “The house has to pay out every once in a while; other­wise people would stop gambling.”

Production Values

filing” (2005) was directed by Baltasar Kormákur. It was written by Edward Martin Weinman, Baltasar Kormákur, and Sissi Kugler. It stars María Fernández Ache, Kharl Anton Leigh, and Peter Coyote. The actors are a joy to watch, every last one of them. Forest Whitaker is the only one who spoke with a pseudo-Minnesota accent, but it's hard enough figuring out the mysteries of who's who that I wasn't worried about their speech. Whitaker a black man was cast as an insurance investigator, a part ipso facto engendering suspicion and distrust without any­thing added to it. But Minnesotans are a friendly lot, opening their door to a strange black man staring in the window, and sharing with him student information from confidential files even after he was discovered to be looking under false pretexts.

MPAA rated it R for language, some violence and disturbing images. It was filmed in Iceland with a 2nd Unit location of Hastings, Minnesota, USA. It had strong visual imagery. It was filmed in a wide-screen 2.35:1 ratio format. Runtime is 1 hour 38 minutes.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This is like a Coen Brothers wannabe; theirs are few and far between, so this one might work as a sub for some people. It's quirky but not in a good way for salt-of-the earth Minnesotans. I'm easy to please, so I was able to appreciate it, but more usual fare might be what most people are after.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Three and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture was quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

O'Hara, John. The Cape Cod Lighter. Copyright © 1961, 1962 by John O'Hara. New York: Random House, 1962. Print.