Film Threat archive logo


By Merle Bertrand | November 22, 1999

Laura’s mother’s father’s father was Clyde’s father’s mother’s brother. That makes Laura Clyde’s second cousin, once removed. She’s also cute as hell which probably explains why Clyde (Pete Ellis) breaks down and, after her repeated videotaped entreaties, eventually agrees to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles to see her. He’s greeted upon his arrival by Lou (Herb Shornby) who tells him his mysterious cousin left yet another tape with which to greet him. On it, Laura informs Clyde that she won $500,000 in Vegas and instructs him to help himself to a stack of cash from her dresser drawer and meet her at a friend’s house. Understandably intrigued, Clyde follows her instructions, only to wind up at the house just after a particularly unpleasant murder has occurred. Suddenly finding himself a fugitive suspect, he heads back to Laura’s, only to get abducted by a trio of mobsters who claim Laura stole the dough from them. They find the wad of bills on Clyde and before you can say “set-up,” Clyde’s running from the cops, taking on the mob, and STILL trying to figure out where the heck Laura is. Picture Godard doing a tongue-in-cheek fifties noir detective flick and you’ll have a pretty good feel for “Second Cousin, Once-Removed.” Technically, this is a slick little picture that mixes and matches its component genres surprisingly well. Ellis is excellent as the lanky, unwitting fall guy while Robyn Sands completely sucks you in as Natalie, a sort of stealth-femme fatale with her own hidden agenda. “Second Cousin…” probably contains a couple of plot twists too many, interspersed with a number of leap-of-faith story gaps. Director John Shorney tries to plug these gaps with several on-screen musical interludes by quintessential garage band Thelonius Monster, then pushes on with the story, optimistically hoping we’re still with him. We may not have all the details straight — at least not on a single viewing — but we can follow along well enough. In the end, although the somewhat disjointed “Second Cousin, Once-Removed” is longer on style than substance, it’s worth a look, if only to figure out exactly what is a second cousin, once-removed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon