Wrong Turn at Tahoe (2009) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Wrong Turn at Tahoe is yet another debut about criminal lowlifes written and filmed by wanna-be Tarantinos. Eddie Nickerson’s bracingly entertaining screenplay covers familiar ground in a breezy way. There are some memorable lines, and a couple of darkly funny moments, combine this with solid performances by Ferrer, and Keitel, and you still have a movie that is a prime example of a casting director filling a film with really good actors, to make up for rather weak plotting.

Joshua (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a violence-prone collector for a ruthless underworld mafia figure (Miguel Ferrer). The mob boss is a paranoid madman that suspects Joshua’s partner (Johnny Messner) of sleeping with his wife (Alex Meneses). So the boss offs his employee and Joshua’s faith in the man’s mental capacity is questioned. One of the film’s more disappointing flaws is that it never makes clear if there was an affair taking place. Adding to the stressed relationship is that Josh is forced to protect the man when he becomes embroiled in a power struggle with the most dominant drug lord in the game (Harvey Keitel). The film has nothing to do with Lake Tahoe, the beautiful location in the Sierras, but rather a character named Frankie Tahoe (Noel Gugliemi), who happens to the person that incites all the events that follow.

I wonder how long this script has been floating about the studios? If this had been filmed in 1995 it would have found a bigger audience in the immediate post-Pulp Fiction frenzy. In today’s market it seems dated and secondary, a low-level knockoff. If the movie had weaker casting than things really would have gone wrong, but the paring of Ferrer, Gooding Jr, Keitel and Johnny Messner elevate the words that could seem silly coming from lesser talent.

Director: Franck Khalfoun
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Keitel

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