Double Down South: Review

Lili Simmons in 'Double Down South'

After winning an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Dead Poets Society in 1990, filmmaker Tom Schulman has found a lot of success in Hollywood writing family films, like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, comedies like What About Bob?, and serious dramas like Medicine Man. However, after his directorial debut 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, his work in Hollywood has yet to reach such heights as in the early ‘90s — especially after writing the notorious box office bomb Welcome to Mooseport in 2004. 

Schulman’s work seemed better when he was diving into genre pictures with a bit of grit and violence. After nearly a 20-year hiatus as a writer and nearly 30 years as a director, Tom Schulman is back making motion pictures with the, albeit mixed, Double Down South, a bayou pool shark movie.

Starring Lili Simmons (Sound of Violence, Bone Tomahawk), as a breathy billiards player drifter named Diana, Double Down South is a major throwback to crime films from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that shows that it has something more up its sleeve, but sadly, not much, than a game of high-stakes keno. 



The film follows Diana, an up-and-coming star in pool who shows up in a backwoods underground pool hall run by the very unsavory country boy Nick, played by Kim Coates (Bad Blood, Sons of Anarchy), who manic and violent outbursts keeps an audience on edge and deeply aware of his presence on the big screen.

Helping out around the pool hall is the one-eyed Little Nick, played by Igby Rigney (F9: The Fast Saga, The Midnight Club), a teenanger who helps with games and has ambitious to run the place one day, and Old Nick, played by Tom Bower (Senior Love Triangle, Out of the Furnace) an old timer who counts the cash and is considered the soul of the seedy joint. Both characters are basically shells of their former-selves, thanks to years of Nick’s abuse and violent outbursts.

Double Down South may have the grit, but oftentimes feels like a watered down version of a David Mamet or Paul Schrader film with lofty bits of dialogue, clever monologue scenes, and effective tension rising stakes. However, it just feels lightweight and paperthin, as if it’s holding back. Think House of Games or The Card Counter without the gray morality or over-the-top moments and thrills — akin to what you’d find if you were playing high-stakes keno.

In this way, Double Down South just doesn’t have the oomph to bring it over the top and back home. Characters are clearly defined, but very really steer clear of those first impressions. Diana is clean and virtuous with a chip on her shoulder, while Nick is violent and petty. He’s clearly the villain of the piece, but never strays away from that impression, despite the film directing us in the opposite direction.

The film climax involves an on-going feud and hustle with rival southern pool shark Beaumont DuBinion, which is objectively a very cool name, played by Justin Marcel McManus (Power Book II: Ghost, Star), which admittedly is clever and smart. But it should be in a much better movie, or the general focus of this one.

It’s unfortunate, because Double Down South has the elements to be a wonderful crime thriller, but it just misses the pocket — or keno board, so to speak.


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Rudie Obias lives in Brooklyn, New York. He’s a writer and editor who is interested in cinema, pop culture, music, NBA basketball, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at IGN, Fandom, TV Guide, Metacritic, Yahoo!, Battleship Pretension, Mashable, Mental Floss, and of course, BRWC.

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