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Down in the Valley
Down in the Valley
Actors: Edwrd Norton, Rory Culkin
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
R     2006     1hr 54min

Down in the Valley falls short of the greatness it's striving for, but it's a fascinating film that's easily recommended. Serving as both star and co-producer, Edward Norton seized upon writer-director David Jacobsen's neo...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Edwrd Norton, Rory Culkin
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Family Life, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Velocity / Thinkfilm
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/26/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 54min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish
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Movie Reviews

"You can be anything you want to be,"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Imperfect and overlong, somewhat stretched and overwrought, Down in the Valley is still a beautifully acted and potent take on a dysfunctional working class family and a naïve drifter - bordering the edges of sociopathic derangement - who ends up powerfully affecting their lives.

Set firmly amongst the freeways, tract-homes and the urban landscape of the San Fernando Valley, Down in the Valley centers on the character of Harlen (Ed Norton), a type of suburban cowboy, who lives in a netherworld of cowboy fantasies and rambles the Valley tipping his dopey hat to the ladies and promising skeptics he will earn their trust.

Harlen lives in a shabby motel, and when bored, pretends he's in Western movie shootouts playing with his guns and lassoing the kitchen chairs. He's been working as a gas station attendant that is until he meets the equally unmoored Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood). Tobe is the defiant and languorously beautiful teenage daughter of a local jail sheriff (hunky David Morse) and Harlan courts her with a cool self-composure.

Of course, from our eyes - and from Tobe's father's - Harlen is nothing but a white trash loser, a dolt who's probably verging on the edge of sanity. But the lovely Tobe doesn't see him this way and she falls for his old-world and romantic cowboy ways when he's actually more innocent and psychologically even younger than Tobe.

Harlen is in reality a child, a man out of place "down in the valley," this land of fast-paced activity, modern rules and where people never get out of their cars. Yet he's also impetuous and manipulative and often acts on the spur of the moment without thinking of the consequences. The first serious signs of trouble come when Harlan takes Tobe to the country for a ride on a white horse that belongs to an eccentric rancher (Bruce Dern) he claims is a friend, and the "friend" pursues them with a gun.

Harlen also holds Tobe's kid brother Lonnie (Rory Culkin) in his complicated thrall. Things get really out of hand when Harlen starts playing off Lonnie and Tobe's affections with their belligerent, protective father and supplying Lonnie with the simple love and attention the boy (and maybe Harlan himself) has never had.

Of course it's inevitable that the shielding father and the wayward boyfriend inevitably clash, and much of the tension of the movie comes from how this relationship eventually plays out. Down in the Valley begins like just another blue collar domestic drama, full of mis-communication and misbegotten tension, but then it radically veers off course, hurtling into the realms of myth and allegory.

Harlan always wanted to be a cowboy and in the final denouement he gets what he wants - but at a price. Then his problems become too overwhelming for Tobe, for Lonnie, for the law, for himself. The climax, a wildly symbolic cinematic chase through the little wilderness that's left, detours across a Western movie set, where all the gun violence begins to take it's toll.

Writer and director David Jacobson builds a rich setting for the inevitable dramatics, the action taking place in a land of American myth that's gone terribly wrong. Jacobson's characters are so richly drawn and his actors to phenomenal in their respective roles, that you can forgive the movie for becoming a little heavy handed and to some extent losing its way towards the end. Mike Leonard October 06.
A Hot October Rides Hard on Harlan
Ben F. Small | Tucson, AZ, USA | 10/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Nice, charming Harlan, played superbly by Ed Norton, a gas station attendant from out of town who's never been to the beach takes a ride from the nubile girl with 'gumption" according to her booding father, played by David Morse. But the beautiful and comely October is underage, and Papa doesn't like the older and somewhat weird Norton dating October, so he forbids their liasons. But Harlan doesn't take no for an answer, and when he can't find October, he settles for her little brother, taking the young boy on another stolen horse ride and teaching him how to shoot .45 revolvers.On their return, Daddy is waiting, and pulls a gun on Harlan, threatens he'll use it if Harlan ever darkens their door again. Harlan responds by breaking into the home, stealing October's Daddy's .45 and packing her a bag. But October won't leave. Tempers fly and October is shot. Harlan tells October's brother October was shot by their father, and that only Harlan can rescue the boy from being a ward of the state. Another horse is stolen, and Harlan and the boy are on the run from the cops and October's father through the hills above the San Fernando Valley. Shots are fired and people go down. But Harlan and the boy are still on the run, and October's wounded father is hot on their heels.

This movie charms and frightens the viewer. Harlan's progression into madness is slow and masked by his easy going nature, his simple humor and by his easy smile. But underneath, Harlan is seething, roiling in a world that doesn't fit him. A cowboy out of his element. A dead shot with a lightning quick draw. Harlan knows he's going to die, and he's determined to take some people with him.

Meanwhile, the children's father is finding ways to bridge the resentments which have split his family apart over time. Coping with adolesence can be tough for a hardened man pre-occupied with his corrections job and looking for love. Once disinterested and authoritative toward his children, the father discovers the depth of his love for his children, and learns new ways to communicate it. adversity can bring people together.

This is an excellent movie, but one which will keep you guessing. Both Ed Norton and David Morse perform their roles as if they were born to them. I found this movie very enjoyable."
3.5 stars -- recommended to viewers who can stay with it
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 04/13/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Edward Norton plays an evil drifter in "Down In the Valley", a low-budget flick he made between big budget movies in 2005. He meets and woos 16-year-old Evan Rachel Wood, daughter of his foil, David Morse, and brother to Rory Culkin, whom Norton also turns toward him with his easygoing, hayseed charm.

What is most recommendable in this film is Norton's outstanding caricature of a South Dakotan using his enigmatic charms to entrance Los Angelite Wood and her brother against the wishes of their lawman dad, Morse. Bruce Dern has a small role as someone trying to unmask Norton's evil character.

As always, Norton is riveting in the understatement with which he carries out his role. You want to accept his explanation that he's a misunderstood well-meaning guy against Morse's admonition that "I've seen your type before." Morse plays the good guy opposite the evil star, although he really isn't that much of a good guy. Abusive with both kids, Morse plays a lawman that uses his position to dissaude Norton from sticking around his daughter. This precedes a somewhat predicatable scene where the film both unravels and begins, finally!, to get interesting.

I say finally! because this movie is about as slow as maple syrup in February for 75 minutes. It crawls around with little forward motion in a sequence of scenes that define the characters and build the apocalypse that occurs after 75 minutes, when the movie seems to take off.

Still, this is required viewing for fans of any of the principal actors, all of whom are well-cast and carry out their roles well. Morse played another good guy foil to a bad guy star in the outstanidng 2001 movie, "The Indian Runner". If you like this movie, buy, rent or borrow the other one. It's like this one only twice as good."
'Don't say anything, just think about it'
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It takes a certain mindset to appreciate DOWN IN THE VALLEY, a quiet little movie about little people who want something more than what their environs offer. The film is long (just over two hours), could use some editing, allows a rather pedestrian musical score to cover the dialogue far too frequently, and for much of the film the camera exposure makes everything so sun drenched (even for the San Fernando Valley where the story takes place!) that it feels bleached. But those aspects feel secondary in the presence of some very fine performances by an excellent cast directed with vision by writer/director David Jacobson.

Life is exceedingly boring in the bland town where Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood) and her little brother Lonny (Rory Culkin) live with their sheriff father Wayne (David Morse) - we never know why there is no mother around though Wayne brings in sleepover subs at random. Tobe has girlfriends with whom she cruises guys and on one afternoon's trip to the beach she meets gas station attendant Harlan (Edward Norton), a drifter who claims to be a rancher form South Dakota and has all the genteel manners of a gentleman raised to respect women. Harlan lives in a trashy motel, plays and dresses as a cowboy, and has an innocence about him that makes us want to believe he is not the borderline personality he is. Tobe picks Harlan up, they begin seeing each other despite Wayne's better judgment, and Tobe and Harlan include Lonny in their pursuit of a world that borders on make believe Western drama. Wayne objects more strongly, discovers Harlan is tempting Tobe away from her home, and confronts Harlan until Harlan finally decides the only way to move forward is to rescue Tobe and Lonny from their bad homelife. Harlan's dark side emerges and his cowboy play becomes real, gunshots are fired and the ending of the film is a mélange of old Western movie make-believe and contemporary tragedy of a young man out of joint with his world.

Edward Norton gives a stunning portrayal of an out of touch drifter: we never know his background except for suggestions that his childhood was spent in detention homes, foster homes, and other dysfunctional modes of getting by. Evan Rachel Wood is radiantly beautiful as the needy teenager who ultimately cannot cope with her desires to leave the home nest. Rory Culkin has few lines but his presence is palpably worrisome. Bruce Dern is on board as a crusty old contemporary 'cowboy' and David Morse again turns in a performance that is three dimensional and credible (it would have been helpful to know why he is a single parent). The film is not without its flaws (as mentioned above plus more), but it manages to give Edward Norton yet another chance to demonstrate his considerable skills as an actor who can make the most peripheral characters stick in our hearts. This is a fine little movie, much underrated. Grady Harp, October 06