In theatres today from director/writer Jenna Ricker, writer/actor Greg Stuhr and The Orchard comes a who-done-it on THE AMERICAN SIDE.
Charlie Paczynski (Greg Stuhr) is a modern day detective-for-hire and when he doesn’t have a juicy case he invents them to pay the bills. Working with partner Kat (Kelsey Siepser), they trap cheating husbands for cash. One night a job goes horribly wrong and Charlie’s partner is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Trying to follow a trail it leads him to Tom Soberin (Harris Yulin), a man who has a secret that has the name of Nikola Tesla written all over it. Before Charlie can get answers, Soberin goes swimming with the fishes at Niagra Falls. Now the gum-shoe is back at square one with Sterline Whitmore (Robert Forster) popping up and being cryptic. A short conversation leads him to Borden Chase (Matthew Broderick) and his sister Emily (Camilla Belle).
They pretend to be unaware of what Tom Soberin was up to and Charlie knows he has to keep digging. Finding Nikki Meeker (Alicja Bachleda) finally gives him the answers he’s looking for. Everyone, including Agent Barry (Janeane Garofalo) wants the ‘MacGuffin’ page from the fabled missing notebook belonging to Tesla and the chase is on.
Finding the page could change the world!
Stuhr as Charlie Paczynski is really well done. This is a character that has been thrown around, taken advantage of, doesn’t mind smoking, runs pretty good, can’t pay his rent, loses women like I lose my glasses and is constantly being taken down the wrong sandbar but when his brain’s light bulb goes off he isn’t about to let anyone off the hook.
Forster as Whitmore is not only a clever guy but one who pops in at all the right moments. Along with sidekick Stickney played by Stephen Henderson, I couldn’t think of two more people I’d get a good history lesson from.
Bachleda as Nikki is a smart and beautiful girl who also has her Tesla down pat. Knowing more than anyone would like her too, she is one tough cookie. Belle as Emily keeps Charlie guessing as to whether she really can help or is just as nutty as her brother. Both of these actresses did a fine job bringing their characters up front and center.
Broderick as Borden is a man who thinks money solves everything and he doesn’t mind spending it. Seeing Charlie as a mere spec on the planet, Borden doesn’t mind expressing exactly how he feels about the private eye. I enjoyed seeing Broderick flex his bad guy muscles and there is a little twinkle that tells me he enjoyed it as well.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE AMERICAN SIDE four tubs of popcorn out of five and let me tell you why. Anything that has can bring Tesla into a storyline I like and the script is really different. Greg Stuhr’s Charlie is completely and utterly the kind of detective I would root for. I should also mention I love Charlie’s inability to put up with to much b.s.
How does Tesla fall into this story? Well, the Niagara Falls Construction Company asked Tesla the best way to generate power using the falls. When Westinghouse took over the AC generating system of the falls, Tesla turned over his patents after some persuading. Interestingly enough, two days after Tesla’s death the FBI seized all the inventor’s belongings. What did they expect to find I wonder!
THE AMERICAN SIDE gives the viewer a lot to take in as the story twists, turns and then twists again just to make sure you were paying attention. The cinematography lends to the look and feel of a solid mystery thriller. The entire film is reminiscent of the detective films I loved watching with my mother as a kid.
The film definitely needs a score card. Speaking of score, it is actually done by David Shire who is responsible for the music of THE CONVERSATION and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.
In the end – there are three sides to the story with truth, lies and the American side.