By Josiah Martin | Staff Writer
Some films teeter on the fine line between predictable and riveting, often leaning towards the latter. “Deidra and Laney Rob a Train” seems to ride this line for its entire runtime, and thankfully succeeds for the most part. In the film, sisters Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and Laney (Rachel Crow) attempt to raise money to bail their mother (Danielle Nicolet) out of jail by breaking into train cars and selling the merchandise within. The series of events that follows are undeniably cliché but are just fun enough that you won’t walk away out of boredom.
“Deidra and Laney Rob a Train” is a comedy not in the sense that viewers will be rolling around on the floor, but rather lightly chuckling at the snappy, witty dialog that drives the film. However, comedy is not the main focus or the strength of this picture. It has more of a feel-good vibe, and works more effectively as a light heist film than a comedy. Some coarse language prevents it from being a family film, which is unfortunate because if it had been marketed and packaged as such it could have possibly do well in a theatrical release.
The benefit of the more mature dialog is that it is the strongest component of this film, and Ashleigh Murray nails all of it. Her depiction of Deidra essentially has “fed up” written across her face for the entirety of the film, and Rachel Crow’s Laney walks around with the exact expression one would see on a lost and excluded high schooler. The other actors do a fine job, but they all sort of blend into the dull background of the film.
“Dull” would be the perfect word to describe this film stylistically, however. One small detail that bothered me is that it features very little apparent artificial lighting. Almost all of the scenes that take place during the day are lit almost solely by the sun through large windows. Now, while this added to the warm, bleak, generic America that befits the Idaho setting, it was odd sitting through a film whose aesthetic can only be described as “dim.” Where the film tries to appear gritty or realistic, leaning toward brown tones and faded colors in the set design, it usually succeeds. However, because there is little variety in this style, the entire film just seems to have a vague sepia tone from beginning to end. While some films use color to help tell the story, this film just uses color for the sake of doing so, and it is noticeable.
As mentioned before, this is a predictable film. As soon as the exposition is complete, all other pieces fall into place exactly the way one would expect. Tim Blake Nelson’s portrayal of the railway detective is a fine performance, but the character is simply written as the typical goofy villain doomed for failure who thinks he is Dirty Harry. All characters who stand in the way of our protagonists’ success eventually either step aside or become accomplices. We are never given a deep reason for doubting the eventual success of the main characters.
Despite this, the film is somehow fun to watch. Truthfully, the idea and execution of the train robbery is just exciting, and even though we may know what’s around the corner the entire time, there is still the exhilarating rush you would expect from a heist film when Deidra and Laney’s plans just barely work with seconds to spare, or when an unexpected twist helps our characters move forward.
I would recommend “Deidra and Laney Rob a Train” if you are looking for a happy film with just enough edge and wit to keep you interested. It’s not the most exciting film, but it is amusing, and certainly worth your time.