It's tough to figure out whether "Don McKay" wants to be a noir thriller, a black comedy or both. Just when it heads one way, something happens to suggest the other. This constant push-and-pull process keeps the indie film from being a true gem, although it's certainly worth a viewing.

Behind the blah, generic title is a more-than-serviceable mystery about sad-sack school janitor Don (Thomas Haden Church, who also co-produced). He's called back to his hometown after a 25-year absence when his high school girlfriend, Sonny (Elisabeth Shue), sends him a letter. She's dying, and doesn't want to be alone for her final days or weeks or months, and hopes to rekindle their flame. With Don being lonely "? and, let's face it, Sonny being white-hot "? he's more than game.

Of course, nothing is as it seems, and a crime of passion changes everything, threatening to ruin Don's apparent one shot at happiness. Some of it you're going to see coming, because writer/director Jake Goldberger wants you to. But some of it will surprise you, and the semi-original end delivers a twist upon a twist upon a twist.

That's not to say it's entirely successful. Its pacing is a bit slow, and tonally, a little too off-kilter to gel. Church and Shue, however, are both fantastic "? no shock, since they continually turn in good performances, no matter whether the vehicle is worthy of their underrated talents.

Its Coen brothers-esque final shot is genius; if only other scenes carried as much of a gleeful punch. "?Rod Lott

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