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Milwaukee, Minnesota
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by brianorndorf

"Twists, turns, and you betchas"
4 stars

An unlikely companion piece to “Fargo,” the wintry crime indie “Milwaukee, Minnesota” might not have a budget, but it has distinctive locations, a solid cast, and a peppy spirit. What it lacks in polish and finesse it makes up for in execution, creating an entertaining sit.

Albert (Troy Garity, “Barbershop”) is a mentally challenged young man with an unexpected gift: he can ice fish better than anyone. Using his gifts in competitions, Albert has amassed a fortune in prize money that his mother (Debra Monk, “Palindromes”) has helped him safely hide. When Albert’s mother is killed, a female opportunist (Allison Folland, “To Die For”), and a killer (Randy Quaid) come rolling into town, looking to take advantage of Albert and steal his money.

If the Coen Brothers’ 1996 film “Fargo” had a kid brother, it would be “Milwaukee, Minnesota.”

“Milwaukee” is a “Minnenoir” motion picture that, while small in scope and budget, comes together competently and pleasingly. A former producer of iconic independent films (“My Own Private Idaho,” “Bodies Rest & Motion”), Allan Mindel has decided to give directing a try, and his first feature doesn’t stray far from the less-is-more-because-we-couldn’t-afford-more school of filmmaking. “Milwaukee” (the title refers to the irrelevance of Midwestern cities) doesn’t have much narrative power, and lacks a propulsive forward motion that audiences come to expect from thrillers like this. However, what the film misses in money and scale it makes up for in unique locations, and a breezy pace. Set amongst the infinite snow-covered landscape of Wisconsin, Mindel drinks the visuals in, creating an isolating atmosphere for Albert that mirrors his character’s journey. Using vast fishing competitions, fleabag hotels, and warmly decorated 50 year-old suburban houses, Mindel captures life in the Midwest without resorting to cheap regional theatrics like the Coens did. Thankfully, Mindel and screenwriter R.D. Murphy stay far away from the “Oh, yahhhhh” Minnesota stereotypes, and focus in on the story, where the real fun lies.

Since “Milwaukee” is a modest production, Mindel relies on his actors to help get the film to the finish line. The cast is uniformly great, especially Garity, who pulls off the iffy role of Albert without making the sympathetic character a golden child. It’s really Allison Folland who steals the film with a performance that is miles from what she’s done before. Always cast in sullen, teen-angsty roles, Folland savors the chance to play a femme fatale with a decidedly angry streak. Folland can’t always keep control of her acting, but the change is wonderful to see.

The abrupt closure (though a beautiful last shot) to “Milwaukee, Minnesota” doesn’t help the nagging feeling that some more dramatic meat might’ve been required to make the film soar; but it also reminds the viewer that this is a film about small pleasures and aspirations. Being grandiose would ruin the effect of this humble, winning feature.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6805&reviewer=404
originally posted: 05/20/09 15:16:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/02/10 topher Intrigued by a film bout ice fishing but enjoyed a well acted indie, Quaid's last scene... 4 stars
6/13/06 mike Im looking for email for JJ giddings 1 stars
5/05/05 J.J. Giddings You've got to be kidding me. Almost seems like you reviewed a different film. 1 stars
1/18/04 E.Ellis Saw this film at Palm Springs International Film Festival - super acting/unique story. 4 stars
9/23/03 Does it matter at this point? Everyone else loves it.... I was insulted so much I now empathize with Fargo's MN detractors and dislike that film too 1 stars
5/28/03 Luis Flamig lots of fun, good acting 5 stars
5/19/03 Paula Richard Murphy is a fabulous writer;totally dedicated to his passion 5 stars
1/27/03 Mark Edwards it's good 4 stars
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  03-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 13-Sep-2005



Directed by
  Allan Mindel

Written by
  R.D. Murphy

  Josh Brolin
  Bruce Dern
  Troy Garity
  Randy Quaid
  Alison Folland
  Hank Harris

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