Sugar Mountain
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (22nd February 2017).
The Film

“Sugar Mountain” (2016)

Miles West (played by Drew Roy) is in a financial and personal predicament. He cannot make the payments for his fishing boat and he is in serious debt. He may have a beautiful girlfriend Lauren (played by Haley Webb) that stands by his side but he is having second thoughts of whether to continue the relationship with her. His younger brother Liam (played by Shane Coffey) is more level headed but is also literally in the same boat as they’ve lost their business. Miles has a get-rich-quick scheme of something similar to “127 Hours”, if one of them pretends to get lost on the nearby Sugar Mountain and returns to civilization after 10 days’ time, they would have a story to sell to the media. Liam knows the mountains too well and it would be far fetched to think he could get lost. Miles on the other hand has a reputation for being careless and it would be believable that he could lose his way on Sugar Mountain. But that is not enough to make a story stick.

Miles, Liam, and Lauren come up with a backstory to make the story believable. They make up a story that Liam becomes jealous of his relationship with Lauren, make a fake diary where Liam’s jealous thoughts are written out, and to stage a fake argument and fight in front of people at a bar. For surviving on the mountain, Liam shows Miles a small cave with food and supplies where he could stay for the time period. The brothers go up the mountain and pretend to have a fist fight which makes them go their separate ways, and with Liam returning and saying that Miles is lost, it sets off rescue teams and local townsfolk to help in the search. All they have to do is wait for 10 days.

While the scheme seems to be working, not everyone is buying the story. Lauren’s father, police officer Jim Huxley (played by Cary Elwes) is suspicious about the entire disappearance. Troublemaker and brute Joe Bright (played by Jason Momoa) is concerned that Miles ran away from the debt accumulated. And when Liam and Lauren find the cave empty after a few days, they realize the fake disappearance seems to have turned into a real one…

“Sugar Mountain” follows a standard straightforward narrative and never strays far from surprise. That both works for and against it as it never feels too original but still is effective being an enjoyable thriller. The backstory of each character unfolds slowly and surely with the three main leads of Miles, Liam, and Lauren having quite a lot revealed throughout the story, with Miles and Liam’s opposite personalities and Lauren’s relationship with her own family. Backstories are always important in setting up characters but one thing frustrating about “Sugar Mountain” is that there are way too many reveals in the latter half of the film rather than cementing the characters in the first half. The script seemed to want a special reveal every so often but it is a case of too much and not important, and with that there was a lot of fat and not enough lean.

There are a lot of good moments in “Sugar Mountain”. The scenes of the brothers interacting and Liam’s inner frustrations were portrayed well, and their planning of the scheme while slightly amateurish in execution it was well done - not a heist with precision, but more like the amateurs they were supposed to be. But then there were characters like Angie (played by Angie Hutchison whose role could have been more but was very limited, as was the character of Lauren’s mother/Jim’s wife Tracey (played by Melora Waters. If the script had done all the backstory reveals earlier on it may have worked much better. Also the ending had so many problems that it was almost unnecessary how it ended.

Please note the following contains major spoilers about the ending of the film:
While I try to refrain from discussing endings especially for newer films, I had to take the time for “Sugar Mountain” because the ending was a very frustrating and problematic experience. The revealing information in the final standoff does give a shocking twist but it seemed like the most unnecessary shock twist as it did not do anything for plot movement. With Liam finding out that Jim is most likely his paternal father was a surprising revelation, especially with him and Lauren having sex and being caught by Jim the morning after. But how does that further the plot in any way? Lauren says that she didn’t know until the Jim told her after he found them together - something the audience doesn’t even know about. If there was a scene of Jim sitting down and telling Lauren about his dark secret it would have been a very good surprise for the audience and an emotionally disturbing scene, and in addition would explain Lauren’s actions for her distrust towards her father in the final standoff scene. The other major issue is the elephant in the room, or a better analogy would be the Tyrannosaurus in the Jurassic Park building. Joe was supposedly dead with his body lying in the back of the jeep. But when Jim opens the back door and finds nothing there, where does Joe come from? The side of the car. How did Joe climb over the seats and open the door to get out with no one noticing? It’s almost like a magic act that he slipped out of the car. It was so far fetched that it took me straight out of the suspense which was already in a “who cares at this point?” disbelief with the father/son reveal. The ending had no morally sound ending, poked more holes in the story that was unnecessary and was all out unsatisfying. A shame because the story itself was fine for the most part.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original theatrical aspect ratio, in anamorphic 2.35:1 in the NTSC format. As the film was shot in Alaska the white of the snow covered landscape is faithfully rendered on the screen. Colors are quite dull for the most part with warmer colors and tones used for the indoor scenes. There are no complaints with the transfer.

The film’s runtime is 106:25 on the DVD.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
The 5.1 track is used rather sparingly for surrounds as dialogue is almost always center based and there isn’t a whole lot used with music in the film. But during the fight scenes or scenes with sound effects the surrounding channels are used fine. It’s not a film that will blow people away but it is fair in getting the job done.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in an off yellow color font. The font size and timing are also fine with no errors to speak of.

Extras

Deleted Scenes & Alternative Ending (16:55)
A selection of deleted scenes including another bar argument between the brothers, Lauren and Liam writing the diary entries together, Lauren’s mother’s fall, etc are offered. As I said the ending of the film was one of the biggest issues I had with the film and I had hoped that the listed alternate ending would help. The alternate ending is actually an extended ending. It did not fix any of the issue I had, but it adds an additional scene of possible what would have happened a year later or so. Interesting, and possibly a way to give a little moral hope where the original ending had seemingly none.
in anamorphic 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Cold War" short film by Richard Gray (8:43)
This 2005 short film directed by Richard Gray stars Yulia Klass and Robert Patrick, also taking place on the Alaskan shoreline like “Sugar Mountain”. It is entirely without dialogue with only music and sound effects. The music is great but strangely was a little too upbeat for the supposed intense standoff setting.
in anamorphic 2.35:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with English text

Trailer (1:29)
The trailer doesn't give too much away and keeps things interesting.
in anamorphic 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

There are no commentary, interviews, or other making of material on the disc which is unfortunate as it would have been interesting to hear some input from the cast and crew.

Packaging

The packaging states "region 4" on the rear case but it is in fact a region 0 disc.

Overall

“Sugar Mountain” is an average thriller with some good ideas but unfortunately suffers from unnecessary backstories and a very flawed ending. Umbrella Entertainment’s DVD offers good video and audio with some extras but nothing entirely substantial toward the background of the film. Hard to recommend greatly, but is an average watch that does have its entertaining moments.

The Film: C Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: C- Overall: C+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.