What the moody indie drama "After the Fall" struggles with is rapidly evident from its brush strokes setup: In a middle-class desert suburb, a mild-mannered husband and father's impending monetary crisis triggers a criminal side.
Yes, we're living in a post-"Breaking Bad" era of morally squishy male antiheroes, so when co-writer and director Saar Klein has jobless New Mexico insurance adjuster Bill (Wes Bentley) try to keep the family afloat by way of an off-the-cuff robbery spree, comparisons to TV's geek kingpin Walter White haunt every scene like burn-in on a flat screen. (There's even the mirror of a cop character, played with brio by Jason Isaacs, who's initially unaware of new buddy Bill's secret life.)
Klein, an Oscar-nominated film editor who has worked with Terrence Malick, clearly prefers a drifting visual tone that aims for an atmosphere of Malickian quiet desperation over the gathering force of a thriller. ("Breaking Bad" managed both.) Although that occasionally works in the various sun-and-water motifs that dominate the movie's examination of economic, spiritual parchedness, the basic story's narrative and psychological simplicity — characters stating their beliefs over and over again — becomes an increasing burden.
"After the Fall"
MPAA rating: R for language, sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.