Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. 100
    Green takes us to that place where we keep feelings that we treasure, but are a little afraid of.
  2. Despite a few narrative confusions, I found it pure magic.
  3. For anyone who likes classic, offbeat American moviemaking, in the rural-thriller genre from "Moonrise" to "Macon County Jail," Undertow is one to check. Seething with violence, bleeding with lyricism, it's a poem from the junk heap, a cry from the swamp.
  4. The movie builds slowly to its grinding climax, and the suspense -- the standard by which a thriller must primarily be judged -- is first-rate.
  5. Taking great artistic chances in storytelling and performance style, Green finally fulfills the promise he showed in his fine 2000 drama "George Washington" as a terrific builder of mood, atmosphere, and psychological suspense.
  6. 75
    It's a dreamy Southern gothic, a la "Night of the Hunter," with an emphasis on the dreamy.
  7. 75
    Conforms to many of the tropes of a formula thriller but, aided by an evocative Philip Glass score and Tim Orr's beautifully naturalistic cinematography, it transcends the genre.
  8. Undertow has the plain, stark, disturbing quality that marked the original "Cape Fear" and "In Cold Blood."
  9. 75
    Although there is violence and danger, this is less about the chase than it is about the relationship between the siblings.
  10. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    In equal parts powerful and peculiar, the film is not my favorite of Green’s, but it helps solidify his position as one of the most visionary young directors around.
  11. Reviewed by: Don R. Lewis
    Green makes you think and his films are so quiet and subtle, you almost find yourself in the film, wrapped up in the moment.
  12. 70
    Undertow may prove the least immediately satisfying of Green's films, but it remains an achievement, emotionally rich and rife with biblical and mythic undertones.
  13. 70
    However cloying, the movie creates a powerful vortex. It's surprisingly visceral-at times almost thrilling.
  14. To call Undertow a '70s-style revenge movie is accurate, but those unfamiliar with Green who expect a typical genre picture may wonder why it takes so long to get to the action.
  15. The result is a movie that doesn't add up to the sum of its parts, yet some of those parts connect deeply anyway.
  16. As with the 70's films of Terrence Malick, one of Undertow's producers, the more intoxicated it becomes with rural desolation and fecundity, the more deeply in touch it puts you with its characters' souls.
  17. Did I fall in love with Undertow? Not in the least. But I liked it alright, and amidst the mediocrity, even rot, that constitutes 98% of contemporary American movies, that'll do fine.
  18. The truth is that Undertow is like a conventional Hollywood movie operating on half its cylinders.
  19. Green may be right to avoid the melodramatic waves of the conventional thriller. But, if so, he needs to dive a lot deeper than this -- there's just not enough under in Undertow.
  20. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    While the quirky structure could be taken as a bold move, the story still feels frustratingly incomplete, rendering the preceding hour or so a tantalising glimpse at what could have been.
  21. 50
    It's no go. Green and Gothic make for a clumsy fit.
  22. Undertow becomes unbearably imitative and predictable. It's a kids-in-peril B horror movie in the guise of an art film.
  23. Loses momentum midway into the boys' journey.
  24. 50
    It's an exercise in 1970s mood. But all the film does is conjure, channel, and allude, until there's really no movie of Green's own for an audience to grab onto.
  25. 50
    This southern-fried mess of poetic crime-movie cliches is redeemed by standout performances.
  26. Reviewed by: Bill White
    Despite picturesque episodes and nicely observed characters, the film lacks suspense.
  27. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    A deep-fried piece of Southern Gothic that wears its unpleasantness like a merit badge.
  28. The naturalistic style of the film is completely at odds with the hokey melodrama.
  29. 40
    Undertow seems to be straining to say something at once tragic and heartwarming about fathers, sons and brothers, but I'm damned if I know what it is.
  30. It's just sort of trying.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 24 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 16
  2. Negative: 4 out of 16
  1. Aug 19, 2011
    I cannot understand the harsh negative reviews. Yeah, some of the scenes of the "Uncle Deel" could have been better but the movie belongs to the boys and I dare anyone not to be deeply touched them. Glass's score fitted like a glove. I was spellbound. Full Review »
  2. Oct 23, 2010
    Not a bad movie by any stretch, and clearly the work of a talented filmmaker, but the pace was sluggish rather than thoughtful and I felt that at the end I was left more tired than breathless. Undertow may be worth seeing for the visuals, which are breathtaking, but the story and character are too thin. Full Review »
  3. RyanF.
    Mar 9, 2009
    One of the most inane movies I've seen. Jamie Bell's performance is the only reason it gets any points at all.