Be careful the next time you find yourself complaining about your soulless corporate law gig, your spacious Upper East Side apartment, and your demanding mother who provides everything for you. Because if you happen to be Derrick Hall (Sam Trammell), you could end up switching places with a small time crook named Zane (Trammell again), and owing money to a local crime kingpin.
Such is the setting for “Undermind,” the debut feature for writer/director Nevil Dwek. And a fine first effort it is, following Derrick and Zane as their lives are inexplicably reversed and each man has to contend with the other’s problems and relationships. As the story progresses, the two characters are able to use their particular talents to bring a fresh perspective to the dilemmas they both face.
This isn’t a variation on the ‘prince and the pauper’ story. Think of it as a cinematic “Elseworlds” tale, a la DC Comics. The two men don’t exist in the same dimension (a story element that is illustrated by Derrick seeing everything written backwards after he and Zane switch identities). Various people from his real life exist in Zane’s reality as well, though also as entirely different characters. He is, at first, understandably confused.
Derrick and Zane have more in common than the same actor playing them, however. Both have unresolved issues with their deceased fathers, and both have chosen unsatisfying career paths (Derrick is a corporate lawyer, while Zane would rather be furthering his songwriting career than pulling cons). The two men are also doing a good job exasperating their girlfriends – played by Susan May Pratt (“10 Things I Hate About You”) and Tara Subkoff (“The Cell”). After initial trepidation (on Derrick’s part) and impulsiveness (on Zane’s), both men settle into their new roles and try to figure out what the hell is going on. We as the audience get to piece everything together along with them, helping us see things through their eyes, which is a theme Dwek undoubtedly wanted to explore all along.
“Undermind” is a good looking film. It’s well lit, well shot, and makes use of some great locations. Dwek also gets strong performances from his cast, most notably those of Trammell and Erik Jensen (“Black Knight”), who plays Zane’s self-destructive brother Ian. If you like movies like “Sliding Doors” but break into hives when Gwyneth Paltrow is on screen, then “Undermind” is worth a look.