'South of Heaven' review: Bad thriller casts Sudeikis in unconvincing role

Ted Lasso as a bank robber going straight? What sounds bad is actually much worse.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

As Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis is believable as the world's nicest guy, a fella for whom a handshake and a smile is currency. 

But playing a bank robber trying to get his life back on track against a mountingly unbelievable set of circumstances, not so much. Which makes "South of Heaven" decidedly south of good. 

Jason Sudeikis in "South of Heaven."

Sudeikis stars as Jimmy Ray, a Texas man leaving prison after doing hard time on a bank robbing bid. His girlfriend Annie (Evangeline Lilly) is dying of lung cancer and only has a year to live, and it's Jimmy's intent to give her the best year of her life, making up for the lost time he was behind bars and she was on the outside, waiting. 

Which would make for a shmaltzy but acceptable Hallmark movie, and there's a place for that. But co-writer and director Aharon Keshales has other things in mind, not that any of those things are telegraphed before they arrive on screen. They just kind of barge in the door — OK, now we're watching an intense drama, now it's a kidnapping thriller, er, a double kidnapping thriller, and sort of a comedy? Oh wait, now it's a shoot-em-up! — like cops breaking up a high school kegger. 

The great Shea Whigham plays Jimmy's corrupt parole officer, Schmidt, who harasses Jimmy into a criminal scheme using the power he wields over him. There's palpable tension between Jimmy and Schmidt but Keshales (who also co-wrote the screenplay) tosses it aside and moves on to the story of a crime boss (Mike Colter) and his precocious son, whom Jimmy is entangled with in what seems like a sideplot on an episode of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." And that would be better than the bullet-riddled climax that has Sudeikis doing an entirely unconvincing John Wick impression. 

And that's not even mentioning the haphazard car accident that puts Jimmy in the body disposal business. "South of Heaven" is a directionless misfire that is so all over the place it doesn't know which way is down. Take it for what it is: lost. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'South of Heaven'

GRADE: D-

Not rated: language, graphic violence

Running time: 120 minutes

In theaters and on VOD