Ferrell is a hoot. So is much of this witty holiday family entertainment, which, up until the end, when the “true spirit of Christmas” must be reaffirmed, happily favors slapstick over treacle.
Novelist Andre Dubus's plotting may be too much for a two-hour movie. But the story's details feel fresh. The vivid clarity of the images, the compressed fury of the tale, are impossible to get out of your head.
The first-time writer-director, Englishman Richard Kwietniowski, has adapted Gilbert Adair's novel with wit, economy and a delicate understanding that the funniest comedies are played with dead seriousness.
Mann vividly captures the nocturnal pulse of East L.A. in this taut, confined game of cat and mouse. In the homestretch the thrills get too generic and farfetched for their own good. But the first two thirds are a knockout.