Review by Sean Boelman
SXSW is known for showcasing plenty of exciting new voices in genre cinema, and this year, it seems like Only the Good Survive’s Dutch Southern is primed for a huge breakout. Although the film is imperfect, there’s an undeniable vibrance to the movie that makes it a thoroughly good time nevertheless.
The movie follows a young woman who is being interrogated after a heist goes wrong, as she attempts to recount the events and understand what happened that made everything go awry. It’s not the type of film that is particularly original, but filmmaker Dutch Southern has such an idiosyncratic vision that it still feels fun.
One of the best things about this movie is its infectious sense of energy. There’s a very punk rock mentality to the whole movie, and while it’s reminiscent of other filmmakers’ styles — with Edgar Wright being the most obvious comparison — it never feels like a knock-off thanks to the cast and crew being totally authentic and committed to the bit.
Admittedly, the tone can be a bit uneven at times. It’s primarily a heist thriller, but there are also elements of quirky comedy and horror sprinkled throughout. It’s all a bit overwhelming, giving viewers a definite sense of tonal whiplash. It’s consistently fun, although the constant shifts do cause the movie to drop off a bit in the second half.
Southern really makes the most of his limited budget. Because polished technical aspects weren’t entirely feasible in this context, Only the Good Survive instead embraces its roughness in a way that is charming. For example, the use of crudely-drawn animation gives the film an exaggerated quality that is essential to its success.
Admittedly, the character dynamics in the movie are a bit conventional, and this causes the film to feel somewhat predictable despite its narrative’s constant attempts to twist the formula up. Still, Southern does a good job of playing with the audience’s understanding of who they should be rooting for.
The movie also benefits from having a young, impassioned cast. The film is led by Sidney Flanigan, the extremely talented actress who broke out in Never Rarely Sometimes Always, but the remainder of the group — D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Darius Fraser, and Will Ropp — are also very charming.
Only the Good Survive might not reinvent the formula, but filmmaker Dutch Southern brings such a unique charm to it that it’s still very enjoyable. It’s the type of flashy, highly-stylized heist flick that is perfect to be diverting for an hour and a half.
Only the Good Survive is screening at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10-18.