First Snow Mark Fergus

A salesman stammering and running around trying to prevent his imminent death is a scenario many people would pay to see on the big screen. Guy Pearce plays Jimmy, a fast-talking floor salesman looking to change direction and make a fortune in jukebox sales. When he’s stranded in the middle of nowhere after his car dies, he visits a fortune-teller (J.K. Simmons) to see if his expected financial gain will come true. Instead, Jimmy discovers a cloud of uncertainty about his future and the clairvoyant reveals his days are numbered.

Thus begins Jimmy’s descent into paranoia, turning over every stone and racking his brain for every person he’s burned in an attempt to uncover who will be responsible for his demise. After wrong guesses make his situation worse, he’s forced to dig himself out of holes that may just be too deep already.

First-time director Fergus and co-screenwriter Hank Ostby already have enough clout as writers, considering they were two-fifths of the team that adapted one of last year’s finest films, Children of Men, but there is something nagging about First Snow that never goes away. The usually reliable Pearce can’t quite dig his character out of the darkness, as he did in Memento or The Proposition, but then again, this is a much more junior script by comparison, and Fergus does little to help his star out.

Pearce’s Jimmy is written unsympathetically and it’s a sturdy disconnection that the viewer feels while watching the sordid salesman try and prevent his demise. The redemption "moments” are put forth but never are you meant to think, "See! He is a nice guy after all.” Instead, when the ambiguous radio announcement signals the end credits not only are we left in the dark drawing up our own conclusions but we’re left indifferent about what transpired over the previous 100 minutes.

First Snow has the power to lure you in with its nervous opening half-hour, and the barren New Mexico location is a helping hand, but once the script sets out to develop its intention we’re left with too many questions that are never answered. And for those of us looking to see a conniving floor/jukebox salesman meet his maker, the ambiguous closure is hardly worth sitting through the experience. (Alliance Atlantis)