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First Snow (2006)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/27/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: No extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/28/2007

Anyone who's taken an "Introduction to Screenwriting" class knows that there are basic rules to writing a movie. First, one must introduce the characters and their situations, and then the movie brings in a device of some sort to create drama and/or tension. The rest of the movie will involve the characters attempting to solve this problem. (Of course, many, many movies ignore this writing scheme.) In theory, once the "problem" is introduced, a movie should become more interesting and involving, as we watch the characters work through the drama. First Snow is a film which goes in the opposite direction, with disappointing results.

Guy Pearce stars in First Snow as Jimmy Starks, a flooring salesman who is a slick talker and a cool customer. While out making calls one day, Jimmy has car trouble and is forced to kill time while waiting for the repairs. He spots a fortune teller (J.K. Simmons) and decides that this would be a fun way to pass the time. The man mentions some seemingly random things such as an athlete returning from an injury and Jimmy getting a windfall when he suddenly has a violent reaction and asks Jimmy to leave. Jimmy is startled, but thinks nothing of it, returning home to his girlfriend, Deirdre (Piper Perabo). However, the fortune teller's words come back to Jimmy when his predictions about the athlete and the surprise money come true. Jimmy returns to the man to ask why he had acted so strangely, and the psychic reports that he had a vision of Jimmy dying when the first snow of the year comes.

Understandably, Jimmy is very distraught by this news. He doesn't want to believe it, but he can't deny the fear that he's feeling. His stress is magnified when he learns that his childhood friend, Vincent (Shea Whigham), has been released from prison. Jimmy is convinced by Vincent blames him for his incarceration and that Vincent will seek some sort of revenge. His sudden fear of death and his paranoia over Vincent sends Jimmy's life spinning out of control.

At the outset, First Snow is a very promising film. Jimmy is the kind of cocky salesman whom we've all met, with his slicked-back long hair and fast talk. He seems to have it all, as he's good at his job, has a live-in girlfriend, and has a new business venture on the horizon. When he's told that he's going to die soon, all of Jimmy's blow-hard confidence suddenly disappears, and he becomes a very frightened and sullen person.

It's at this point in the script when we would expect Jimmy to make some sort of drastic change in his life. Will he find religion? Will he become hypervigilant and distrusting as he attempts to discover how heís going to die? Will he attempt to make amends for past wrongs? No, First Snow doesnít go in any of those directions. Instead, it becomes more of a crime thriller, as Jimmy begins to keep tabs on Vincent, while Vincent calls Jimmy over and over. We arenít surprised by a sudden change in the filmís tone or in Jimmyís behavior, but I was certainly surprised by how much I didnít like the second half of the movie. Jimmy suddenly becomes obsessed with Vincent, but we are given very little information on exactly what their relationship was or why Vincent went to jail. Even when the movie does eventually explain this, it remains vague. At this point, the other characters in the film, such as Deirdre and Jimmyís business associate played by William Fichtner, fade away and we are left with the newly paranoid Jimmy. This character isnít the least bit interesting and the movie drags during the third act. And Iím still torn over the filmís ending -- itís not a Hollywood ending, but it still feels like a cop-out.

First Snow is one of those movies which is the worst kind of disappointing. First of all, itís got a great cast full of familiar faces, and Guy Pearce is an actor who Iím always willing to watch. Secondly, it takes an interesting idea and squanders it. Granted, First Snow should be applauded for going in a different direction in the second half, but the turn that the movie makes isnít the least bit satisfying. When you hit the video store, donít make First Snow your first choice.

First Snow drifts onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the full-frame and widescreen versions of the movie. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing very little grain and no defects from the source material. Despite having been shot in a somewhat arty manner, the image is always in focus and the picture shows a nice amount of detail. The colors look fine, from bright colors to the desert hues. The image is never overly dark. I did note some minor video noise in some shots. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fine and the score sounds good. We get some nice surround sound effects from passing cars when Jimmy is out on the road. I didnít note any substantial subwoofer effects save for some minor ďthudsĒ during certain scenes.

There are no bonus features on this DVD.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long