Occasionally entertaining and featuring a worthwhile performance from Mr. Whatever-happened-to, Anthony Michael Hall, THE GRAVE is essentially a hillbilly heist flick that is way too complicated for its own good.
The eponymous grave belongs to Mr. Matheson Hoke, the backwoods' answer to Donald Trump, who--legend has it--was buried with the key to a vault containing his immense wealth. So compelling is the legend that it prompts convicts King (Craig Sheffer) and Tyn (Josh Charles) to break out of prison in
search of the buried booty. Though they escape without incident by bribing a guard, J. C. Cole (John Diehl), they are caught stealing clothes off a laundry line and Tyn takes a belly full of buckshot. Panicked, King takes his friend to the nearest thing to a doctor he can find: Travis (Anthony
Michael Hall), who works at a funeral home. Travis' contributions are negligible, of course, and Tyn soon dies--but not before telling Travis about the grave.
While King seeks out an old girlfriend, Jordan (Gabrielle Anwar), Travis and his hillbilly buddies, Cletus and Boo (Donal Logue and Max Perlich), load the pickup with shovels and head for Hoke's final resting place. What they find there, not surprisingly, is a badly decomposed corpse wearing an
ornate gold ring, but no sign of treasure. Travis and Cletus take the ring to Jordan, who informs them that there must be a second ring that, when combined with this one, reveals the secret location of Hoke's stash. She also tells them the story of Hoke's young wife, Ophelia, who, unable to bear
children, allegedly bought a black-market baby girl before dying under mysterious and violent circumstances.
Meanwhile, Boo has been captured by Cole, the prison guard, who is looking for his share of the take. Travis and Cletus once again exhume Hoke's carcass and retrieve the second ring, which points to the grave of Ophelia Hoke as the entrance to the famed vault. Joined by King (who had been bashed
over the head with a shovel by Boo, mistaken for dead, buried, and unearthed), they eagerly desecrate Ophelia's tomb, revealing a passageway to old Hoke's treasure trove. Blinded by gold, they hardly notice as Jordan--Ophelia's "daughter" and the true heir to the Hoke fortune--seals the grave
behind them, burying them alive.
We can almost hear the pitch: RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) meets THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) meets DELIVERANCE (1972). Rife with Tarantino-esque dialogue, following the quirky-cast formula that has proliferated over the last few years, and told via a jail cell interrogation-confession, THE GRAVE offers a
few interesting scenes but ultimately collapses under the ponderous weight of its too-complex plot. The premise--what if a bunch of backwoods rednecks tried to pull a heist--is not a bad starting point, but writer-director Jonas Pate's decision to weave in the tale of the dysfunctional Hoke family
makes the story far too cumbersome to carry and telegraphs the "twist" ending almost an hour in. The one standout in the cast is Anthony Michael Hall (yes--the same Anthony Michael Hall), who conveys both cunning and stupidity in an almost animal fashion; with THE GRAVE's straight-to-cable
release, though, it probably won't get him many jobs. (Graphic violence, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: Occasionally entertaining and featuring a worthwhile performance from Mr. Whatever-happened-to, Anthony Michael Hall, THE GRAVE is essentially a hillbilly heist flick that is way too complicated for its own good. The eponymous grave belongs to Mr. Matheso… (more)