Through no fault of its own, Icelandic flick Either Way didn’t make much of an impression when it came out in 2011.
But it made enough of an impact on David Gordon Green for him to mount this US remake, set in rural Texas with American talent but otherwise retaining the quiet, unassuming reticence of Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s modest original.
That’s despite the casting of Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, both of whom are willing and able to go big and broad when the occasion demands. Here, though, they’re as muted as the mood of understated melancholy that hangs over this tale of two mismatched road workers charged with repainting lines and replacing reflectors along country thoroughfares in the aftermath of a devastating 1987 forest fire.
Pensive, bookish Alvin (Rudd) does not have a great deal in common with Lance (Hirsh), his girlfriend’s juvenile, horndog brother. Yet sharing a truck, a tent and a campfire in the great outdoors can’t help forging a bond that, the odd bicker and squabble apart, becomes stronger with every pole erected and cat’s eye glued. Matters come to a head when Lance heads off to the nearest city for the weekend, returning with bad news for Alvin and an unsatisfied libido.
But this is not a picture of climaxes, so to speak. Instead, Green opts for a mournful yet humorous character study that plots as steady a course as the barely used highways upon which what passes for action takes place.
The stark woodland, filmed in a Texan state park ravaged by wildfire nine months before shooting, is a gift that lensman Tim Orr makes the most of when not following the leads in a succession of unbroken takes and semi-improvised duologues.
But before you take this as a two-man parade, be aware that there’s support to savour from the late Lance LeGault as a grumpy old trucker who dispenses both hooch and advice.
Green fashions a slow-burn charmer that’s a million miles from Pineapple Express in tone, pace and content. But just like that film, the odd couple interplay is beautifully judged.