South of Heaven (USA, 2021)

Jason Sudeikis breaks out of his comedy shell in this two-toned drama from director Aharon Kesales.

After serving a twelve-year stint in prison for armed robbery, Jimmy has been granted early parole. Upon his leaving, he has learned that Annie, the woman he has loved since childhood, is dying from cancer. With only twelve months left to live, Annie hopes Jimmy doesn’t go back to his life of crime. While he is uncomfortable with his parole officer Schmidt, Jimmy vows to make sure Annie’s final year is one that he can make her happy.

As Jimmy attempts to work a regular job, Schmidt offers him a chance to make a little extra money to help make ends meet. Unfortunately, an accident causes Jimmy to steal $500,000 from a courier working for local crime boss Price. When Annie is kidnapped by Price, Jimmy decides to kidnap Price’s son in retaliation. Soon enough, Jimmy finds himself looking over his shoulder and with Annie in the middle of it all, he decides to put an end to things in order to make Annie’s life happy when it ends.

Sometimes it is crazy to see an actor break out of a certain type that fans are used to. However, it should be allowed for actors to be given a chance to be able to break out of their shells and try something different. In the case with this film, the film belongs to Jason Sudeikis, who completely breaks out of his shell. Everyone is used to seeing his comic shtick, but this film gives Sudeikis a chance to pull off a great dramatic performance in the role of a parolee who wants to live a normal life for the sake of his dying girlfriend only to be forced back into his past.

Sudeikis isn’t the only to churn out an excellent performance in the film as Evangeline Lilly (sporting a blond buzzcut to reflect on her character’s cancer) is great as Annie, the woman who Jimmy wants to help and live for. Sudeikis and Lilly have such amazing chemistry together that they look like a couple who can get through anything together. When Jimmy is forced to break his promise, instead of Annie up and leaving Jimmy, she knows he remains loyal to her and will do anything to get her back when she is kidnapped.

From the moment he appears on the screen, it is clear that Shea Whigham’s Schmidt is a shady character. Even Jimmy senses it during their first meeting together. This is perhaps the only predictable character in the film as Mike Colter’s crime boss Price is not exactly a villainous character. As Price, Colter is about business, but when he kidnaps Annie, he is seen having typical conversation with her while in the film’s only lighthearted moments, Jimmy tries to get through to Price’s foul-mouthed pre-teen son. Michael Paré joins in on the craziness as Price’s number one enforcer showing up when it comes to the few action scenes of the film.

South of Heaven is a tense drama with some emotionally charged and lighthearted moments that could be Jason Sudeikis’ breakout role in terms of breaking out of his comic shell. This is definitely worth checking out.

WFG RATING: B+

RLJE Films presents a Good Wizard production in association with Arts District Entertainment, MFC, and Swiss Avenue Pictures. Director: Aharon Keshales. Producers: Aharon Keshales, Roger Birnbaum, Chadd Harbold, Amanda Presmyk, and Dallas Sonnier. Writers: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, and Kai Mark. Cinematography: Matt Mitchell. Editing: Bryan Gaynor.

Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Evangeline Lilly, Shea Whigham, Mike Colter, Michael Paré, Amaury Nolasco, Jeremy Bobb, Tina Parker, Jaime Zevallos, Greg Hill.

The film will be released in select theaters, On Demand, and Digital on October 8.

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