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The American Side 

Wednesday, Jun 1 2016
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Given how quickly movies tend to adopt internet memes, it's a little surprising that there haven't been more films like Jenna Ricker's The American Side, which worships at the altar of Nikola Tesla.It's also a classic noir-tinged detective story, as Buffalo, N.Y., gumshoe Charlie (Greg Stuhr) finds himself embroiled in a caper far more dangerous than his usual cheating-spouse cases: An apparent suicide at Niagara Falls leads him into a conspiracy involving a torn page from Tesla's notebook, which may lead to the creation of a steampunk-y super-weapon. Ever since Raymond Chandler admitted that even he didn't fully understand the plot of his own The Big Sleep, detective stories have been allowed to be as convoluted and twisty as they wanna be, and The American Side is no exception. (When a character compares Charlie to The Big Sleep's Philip Marlowe, however, Charlie says he prefers Mickey Spillane's comparatively brutish Mike Hammer.) The American Side never quite adds up to a satisfying experience, but that's made up for by the cavalcade of familiar faces in small parts, including Matthew Broderick, Harris Yulin, Robert Forster — and, most excitingly, Janeane Garofalo as a federal agent who gets the lion's share of the Tesla exposition, and even makes "death ray" sound plausible.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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