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The Movie Report
Archive
July 2006

#507 - 508
July 14, 2006 - July 28, 2006


all movies are graded out of four stars (****)

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#508 July 28, 2006

M O V I E S

Lady in the Water one-sheet Lady in the Water (PG-13) no stars
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It would be easy to glibly dismiss M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water as an epic trainwreck--and, indeed, it is. So let's get all of that out of the way: it's one of the most astonishing, embarrassing, misbegotten misfires from a name brand director in recent memory. While it's undoubtedly fun to hurl the invective at a work that truly deserves the abuse (and does this film ever ask--nay, beg for it), what is truly striking is that maybe, just maybe, this fantastical tale could have worked on screen. It's just that Shyamalan makes just about every conceivable wrong move along the way from basic conception to execution.

The basic idea is this: a sea nymph, called a "narf" (Bryce Dallas Howard), arrives in the pool of a Philadelphia apartment building on a mission to inspire a writer who will change the world. With the help of the building's superintendent Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) and just about all the other tenants, the narf--named (flaming, sledgehammer symbolism alert!) "Story"--attempts to find her "vessel" and then return safely to her aquatic home of "The Blue World" without being harmed by the dangerous wolf-like creatures called "scrunts."

Now, it would be easy to dismiss this basic idea, which reportedly comes from a bedtime story Shyamalan made up on-the-fly for his young daughters, as incredibly silly. But then that doesn't mean it couldn't have been adapted from the screen effectively, particularly with the originally intended target audience in mind: children. After all, who would be most willing to let the paper-preposterous mythology of narfs and scrunts wash over them at face value? But Shyamalan misses the boat by not only bypassing the kid audience or even the family audience but by aiming this heap of hokum squarely at adults. It's perhaps a noble intention to try to make an adult audience appreciate and embrace the innocent wonder of a fairy tale, but to do so would require that ever-so-tricky balance known as magic realism--and when the former quality isn't exactly magical and the latter is hardly convincing, trouble is afoot.

Giamatti deserves special credit for doing his damndest to deliver a real performance here, but his authenticity in bringing to life the anguished, stuttering schlub that is Cleveland works against whatever spell Shyamalan tries to conjure. Cleveland, not unlike Mel Gibson's character in the director's 2002 Signs, has withdrawn from most of the world after a tragedy shattered his faith. Why, then, does he instantly buy into Story and her increasingly convoluted Blue World rules and mythology? Even better, why does practically everybody else in the building instantly go with it without question as well? Maybe Shyamalan intended this giant leap to read as a metaphor about how every grown-up is eager and ready to find something greater in which to believe in their mundane existence, but such a theme is clumsily conveyed at best, downright stupid at worst.

It also doesn't help that the magic of this would-be magic realist world isn't the slightest bit alluring, which would've gone a long way toward explaining why everyone in the building is immediately drawn in. Story, with her perpetually limp locks, zombie-pale skin, equally frozen visage, and droning voice to match is quite simply an incredible drag all around--she's rather creepy to look at, and the purple prose that's solemnly whispered out of her mouth is more likely to strike bone-chillng fear than foster exuberant creative inspiration. The feeling she is said to inspire, akin to "pins and needles" as the audience is told, doesn't exactly sound like a sensation that would lead anyone, much less a Chosen One (more on this doozy a little later), to craft a world- and history-changing magnum opus of art and thought. As if it weren't already difficult enough to go with the flow, according to Shyamalan's script the narf mythology derives from a Korean bedtime story--and so the bulk of the heavy, neverending exposition comes via tedious and often downright insulting scenes of a heavily-accented, skanky Korean party girl tenant (Cindy Cheung) translating her non-English-speaking mother's explanations in rough, rather offensive "Me So Horny"-level pidgin English. The talk of narfs and The Blue World are already difficult to take when delivered straight; how can we possibly take it the slightest bit seriously or have even a twinge of investment when the pertinent information is given by stereotype joke characters? Worse still, just when one thinks they have everything with the narfs and the scrunts straight, then Shyamalan introduces new wrinkles and rules to the mythology; I'm not going to even go into what the "tartutic" and "The Great Eatlon" are, or how the interpretation of cereal box images (!) comes into play. (Actually, I'm still trying to figure out how that one came about myself.) The neverending web of new convolutions--needless ones, no less, as ultimately it's still simply about trying to send the narf back home--betray what is by stated conception a kid-friendly fairy tale bedtime story. The reality may be that Shyamalan made up his bedtime tale as it went along when he first told it to his kids, but there's no good reason why a film derived from it should feel like it is.

But no one dare question the story Shyamalan tries to tell and how he chooses to tell it, and that such smug, self-justification finds its way into the very narrative of Lady in the Water is what finally pushes the film from already overstuffed, undercooked mess to a landmark of catastrophic indulgence. The writer whose über-profound musings will go on to inspire future world leaders and form the impetus to large-scale global sociopolitical change is played by none other than the writer-director himself. His character--no less than the third lead behind Giamatti and Howard--may not bear his own name, but he might as well, as there's no excuse to cast himself in such a large role (after all, talented South Asian actors who would've nailed this part with far more expression and empathy, such as a Saif Ali Khan or an Abhishek Bachchan, were just a phone call away) other than to make his statement blatantly clear: M. Night Shyamalan is the vessel of Story. (Get it?) Doubt that at your peril--lest you meet the same fate as Farber (Bob Balaban), a fussy film and book critic whose ceaselessly cynical ways lead him to being at the wrong place at the wrong time with a scrunt. The character and Balaban's rather hilarious performance are probably the most amusing aspects of the film, but in the end one realizes that he really doesn't have much purpose in the grand scheme--other than to be proven "wrong" and pay dearly for it.

Perhaps the saddest part of Lady in the Water is that Shyamalan definitely a talented filmmaker. Even in some of his heretofore lesser efforts there are moments of technical brilliance; for example, the nailbiting basement/flashlight scene in Signs and a key character's plot-pivoting stabbing in The Village. If the latter film's disastrous final third was his leap off of the cliff, then the whole of Lady in the Water signifies his plunge off of the deep end. I would love to see Shyamalan work a writing collaborator who would help hone and enhance his admittedly imaginative ideas while streamlining the indulgences--or better yet, apply his craft and technique to someone else's screenplay. But then again, what the hell do I know--I'm a lowly scrunt-bait critic deigning to question the very Vessel of Story.


Miami Vice one-sheet Miami Vice (R) **
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Although it's quite understandably one of the most definitive, iconic examples of '80s pop kitsch, Miami Vice is an ideal television series to adapt into a feature film. Strip away the dated pastel fashions and Don Johnson's perpetual beard stubble, and one's left with executive producer Michael Mann's pioneering visual- and music-driven style, a slick template for crime drama that has been aped on the tube and big screen alike for the last twenty years. That Mann has emerged as one of the more individualistic mainstream motion picture directors in those two decades made his return visit to the work and lives of police detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs the rare pre-anointed summer blockbuster with the promise of something more substantial. But it's the tension between those two aims that make for work that's oddly conflicted and ultimately unsatisfying film on either level.

The main gist of the plot here is simple and to the point, not unlike that of an episode of the old show: Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) go undercover to infiltrate a drug smuggling operation; along the way Crockett falls for the right-hand woman (Gong Li)--in a number of respects--to the big boss (Luis Tosar). On paper it's pretty straightforward, but Mann seems intent on making it as talky, action-light, murky, and uninvolving as possible, with reams of monotonously delivered dialogue about shipping transactions. Not helping matters are the sometimes inscrutable accents, most prominently Gong's. While hers remains one of the most eloquent faces in all of cinema (and one pivotal wordless scene makes one wonder what would could have been had she not declined the Amy Brenneman role in Mann's Heat ten years ago) unlike in Memoirs of a Geisha, there are no broad, hyperbolic strokes to this character compensate for her difficulty with the language.

That wouldn't be so much of an issue if she struck any sparks with Farrell, but one of the major deficiencies in the film is chemistry--not just between Farrell and Gong, but Foxx and his love interest Naomie Harris (as a fellow detective), and, most damaging of all, Foxx and Farrell. I can understand Mann wanting to eschew typical film and TV "buddy" cop relations with this Crockett and Tubbs, but the two here don't even have a convincing base working partnership. The Foxx-Farrell pairing can best be summed up by the first real Crockett-Tubbs scene in the film: on the rooftop of a club, on the phone... having separate conversations. The two share the frame and the on-set air but nothing else.

Mann is still one of the best in the business when it comes to gunplay, and the two key action sequences--a tense sequence in a trailer park and a climactic shoot-'em-up--deliver all the loud, jolting fire and raw bloodshed one expects. But with all the characters being paper-thin ciphers thrown into the shots (in every sense), there's no sense of investment. The same perhaps can be said of Mann when it comes to the whole of this Miami Vice--interested in technical details than the soul of the piece, whether achieving the right sense of grit with the HD video visuals over what is going on in the story or, more distractingly, half-heartedly throwing in reference points to the show simply to drain them of any possible sense of fun. He places Crockett in a speedboat only to never get into a chase with it; "In the Air Tonight" is used as the end credits tune--by way of an uninspired and generally uninteresting rock cover by Nonesuch. This new Miami Vice as a whole is much like the latter: an update that's pumped-up to diminished effect.


In Brief

Azumi one-sheet Azumi ***
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With her angelic face and petite frame, Aya Ueto would be a favorite in any hypothetical Little Miss Sunshine contest. As the title character of the live action manga adaptation of the same name, however, Ueto is anything but sunshine and tiaras; she's the best in an elite group of young samurai assassins on a mission to assassinate some sadistic warlords in 19th century Japan. Despite admirably doing most of the samurai sword stunts herself, Ueto is a bit too dainty to be completely convincing as a ruthless killing machine, and she doesn't have the acting chops to compensate for physical presence shortcomings; heavy-handed dialogue continually insisting that she's "the best" doesn't help matters, either. But it's a tribute to the energy of director Ryuhei Kitamura that the big set pieces--including a huge, climactic explosion- and splatter-filled free-for-all samurai battle--still engage and excite in all their excess, and the raw visceral pleasures are enough to carry the film past some clunky melodrama that bloats the film to a two-hour-plus run time.


Little Miss Sunshine one-sheet Little Miss Sunshine (R) *** 1/2
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This is is a family-centered road dramedy that culminates in a beauty pageant for little girls. But while writer Michael Arndt and married director team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris convey the expected lessons about embracing who you are, foibles and all, it comes in a hilariously caustic package that makes its ultimate uplift genuinely feel-good instead of insufferably saccharine. The major credit goes to the cast, who make the dysfunctional Hoover family real people beyond their quirks: Greg Kinnear as the haughty wannabe self-help guru dad; Toni Collette as the ever-harried mom; Steve Carell as her brother, a gay, suicidal scholar; Alan Arkin as the crude, heroin-snorting grandpa; Paul Dano as the mopey, silent son who hates everyone; and Abigail Breslin as the cute, but far from pageant-perfect, daughter who is a finalist in the titular beauty contest. Their rushed road trip in an old VW bus from Albuquerque to the Redondo Beach event runs into the expected obstacles and complications, but any contrivances are genuinely funny and sold by the cast, who make you care about the oddball family and each member's individual journey. But before the atmosphere flirts with getting too heavy, Arndt, Dayton, and Faris pull out all the stops with the finale, a spot-on recreation of a child pageant in all of its garish grotesquerie that's as hilarious as it is disturbingly convincing--which then just makes that dreaded "feel-good" all the more deserved and satisfying.


Monster House one-sheet Monster House (PG) ***
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Snakes on a Plane isn't the only summer movie to lay it all out there in plain sight--there is also this motion-capture animated featurewhich is centers a house that is... a monster. After setting up the premise--after the neighborhood grump (Steve Buscemi) passes, young across-the-street neighbor DJ (Mitchel Musso) notices that his now-vacated home has developed a literal hunger for pets and people that dare disturb it--director Gil Kenan lets his imagination run wild with it without (attention Story Vessel Shyamalan!) weaving unwieldy complications. The animation may be more traditionally CG-looking and as life-like (and, hence for some, not as creepy) as producer Robert Zemeckis's previous motion-capture-animation effort The Polar Express, but the more fanciful look works, particularly in the case of the title object itself, which Kenan and his design team have managed to turn into a believably living and highly menacing creature while still maintaining its distinct house qualities: its tongue is a rug; its uvula is a hanging light fixture, etc. Anyone looking for Pixar-level (that is, pre-Cars) characterization may be disappointed, but when it comes to killer visuals, some witty one-liners, and genuine thrills (some of which may be too intense for the youngest set--the PG rating is rather deserved), Kenan delivers the freaky/funny goods for audiences of all ages.


My Super Ex-Girlfriend one-sheet My Super Ex-Girlfriend (PG-13) ***
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With this film and last year's Sky High, it seems the new annual trend is to graft the superhero angle onto a tried-and-true non-action genre. While not as sharp and clever as last summer's witty take on the high school teen flick, Ivan Reitman's superpowered variation on the romantic comedy is good for some light amusements, largely due to Uma Thurman's game performance as Jenny Johnson/G-Girl, whose confident superheroic exterior hides a needy, clingy, hopelessly neurotic secret identity--in whom one Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson, giving good exasperated smirk) takes a soon-to-be-regrettable interest. The effects, costuming, and hero moniker ("G-Girl"? Might as well call her "Narf Girl") aren't exactly the most super, but when Reitman, Thurman, Wilson, and writer Don Payne are able to pull off twisting the 1978 Superman's iconic "Can You Read My Mind?" sequence into a hilariously paranoid nightmare of emasculation, they are at least getting the most important job done: delivering a breezy timepass entertainment with a little hint of bite.


Scoop one-sheet Scoop (PG-13) **
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After the dark, cynical trappings of his change-of-pace thriller Match Point, Scoop finds Woody Allen reverting to his light comedy roots and general predictability. While he does retain two of the fresh elements in his last film, the London setting and star Scarlett Johansson, there isn't a whole lot else here that will strike one as being fairly new--certainly not Allen in full kvetch as another neurotic nebbish, a hack magician who aids a student reporter (Johansson) on a less-than-professional undercover investigation of a dashing aristocrat (Hugh Jackman, given little to do) who may be a serial killer. As in any Allen comedy, a good one-liner pops up here and there, but the scattered wit and initial novelty of seeing and hearing Johansson put on an Allen avatar geek persona in her first scene can't carry the film behind some clunky metaphysical devices (Johansson's character is set on her investigation by the spirit of a recently deceased journalist, played by Ian McShane), the lack of big laughs, and Allen's tired on-screen schtick.


Shadowboxer one-sheet Shadowboxer (R) ** 1/2
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If there's one thing Lee Daniels can't ever be accused of, it's playing it safe. But if he took bold risks with producing efforts such as Monster's Ball and The Woodsman, then he downright goes for broke with his directorial debut. Filled with bloody violence, graphic sex and nudity, drug use, color- and age-blind couplings, there's a lot going on in this story of a hitman (Cuba Gooding Jr.), his cancer-stricken partner/lover/mother figure (Helen Mirren), and the mark (Vanessa Ferlito) they end up protecting from the husband (Stephen Dorff) who ordered the hit. But for all the mayhem, plot twists, and taboo-smashing, the film fails to resonate due in large part to Gooding's opaque central performance as the laconic Mikey; his character is a man of few words by design, but Gooding does nothing beneath the stoicism that would enable the viewer to connect with Mikey's rather rich emotional arc. Other peformances are more effective, particularly Mirren's nuanced yet palpably anguished work; and unlike a lot of producers-turned-directors, Daniels has a confident, creative visual style (aided in no small part by cinematographer M. David Mullen), and the very classical score by Mario Grigorov is a quirky but effective choice. The raw materials for a gutsy, gritty, fearless, fascinating thriller are here, but the end result amounts to some intriguing individual parts and not a satisfying, cohesive whole.


D V D

ATL DVD ATL (PG-13)
Movie: ***; Disc: ***
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It's a shame that Warner Bros. appeared to have no clue how to properly sell Chris Robinson's film, as evidenced by their ad campaign and the early media coverage. Early press fixated on roller skating, which is part of the film but hardly the focus; the trailers and TV spots suggested violent urban ghetto flick, but the grit and darker shades are not the main concern. Ultimately, this is one of those teen coming-of-age films, and with the eventful time stretch comes the good and the bad, the light and the dark; and with the different characters come the divergent life directions, be it the legit or the criminal, the modest to the extravagant; and with its setting--Atlanta--all the local flavor specific to life there. It's not exactly something that can boiled down to an easy sell, but then that's also part of its appeal and charm. Tip "T.I." Harris acquits himself well in his big acting debut, and the rest of the eager young ensemble (including Jackie Long, Al Daniels, Evan Ross, and Lauren London) deliver.

While Robinson doesn't offer a running commentary track, there is a 28-minute documentary titled "In the Rink--A Director's Journey." While the first few minutes make this featurette appear no different than standard DVD making-of shorts--and, indeed, there is some obvious recycled EPK footage here--but it truly is a succinct yet comprehensive look at, as the title states, the "director's journey." Robinson covers all aspects from casting to scouting to the end of shooting, with some intriguing glimpses from location scouts, screen tests, table reads, and roller skating rehearsals--but most intriguing of all, Robinson's candid insights on his aims with the film, working process, and the transition from music videos to feature projects. Snippets with the cast and other crew also enhance this entertaining and informative look into the production. Rounding out the special features section are five minutes worth of (understandably) deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, and T.I.'s "What You Know" music video.

Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English, French, and Spanish 5.1 Surround; English, French, and Spanish subtitles; English closed captioning. (Warner Home Video)


Firewall DVD Firewall (PG-13) full movie review
Movie: *; Disc: ** 1/2
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Despite the common media--and, apparently, industry--belief, Harrison Ford may be over 60, but that doesn't automatically mean he's now too old to do the action-adventure roles that made him the global superstar he is today. Few actors are able to infuse whatever pulpy material given with instant gravitas, and his willingness to do as much of the actual physical action requirements as possible--something that the younger crop of shoot-'em-up stars aren't so eager to do--lends the set pieces something deeper on a character level on top of delivering the requisite thrill.

That said, there's only so much Ford's ever-game efforts can do to dress up dreck like Richard Loncraine's would-be thriller--and it's weak career choices like these and their inevitable box office failure that make the media and the industry think that Ford is over, not so much the star himself (though maybe the fact that Ford is reduced to choices like these say a lot more about the quality of offers he's given these days.) It's a classic Ford set-up: he's a computer whiz for a large bank whose family is held hostage by a bunch of baddies (led by Paul Bettany, also doing all he can for naught) who want him to crack his security system to steal $100 million. But the star, doing what he can, isn't helped by a lame script by Joe Forte that when not simply intelligence insulting (in the era of everyday, instant online bill pay, how can anyone attempt to do the one-dollar-at-a-time bank funds transfer with a straight face?) is unintentionally hilarious (I won't spoil how a bit of foreshadowing about a dog collar pays off in the climax).

Ford still clearly knows his ins and outs of Hollywood action thrillers, and he gives an all-too-brief taste of his decades of assembled knowledge in the DVD's surprisingly watchable 15-minute "Firewall Decoded: A Conversation with Harrison Ford and Richard Loncraine" featurette. The two are remarkably candid about their sometimes rocky working relationship and a less-than-smooth production, a bit surprising since it was apparently shot during the put-on-a-happy-face press junket weekend (Loncraine refers to doing many interviews earlier in the day). Three minutes is too long for the "Firewall: Writing a Thriller" featurette, in which Forte rambles on about extensive research and detail that didn't make his script any better.

Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English, French, and Spanish 5.1 Surround; English, French, and Spanish subtitles; English closed captioning. (Warner Home Video)


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#507 July 14, 2006

M O V I E S

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest one-sheet Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (PG-13) ***
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Expectations for the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, 2003's The Curse of the Black Pearl, were understandably low--after all, its dubious source material was a theme park ride, of all things--but director Gore Verbinski and scripters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio managed to come up with an entertaining, if overlong, throwback swashbuckler whose most distinct innovation was its old-fashioned style. Distinctly fashion-forward, on the other hand, was the film's ultimate ace in the hole: Johnny Depp's indelibly eccentric work as rogue pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, which made the film an even more jovial jaunt than it otherwise would have been.

Depp's Capt. Jack hasn't mellowed his madness the slightest bit in Dead Man's Chest, the second of a now-planned trilogy, and while his performance still gives this film the film a kooky kick all its own, there is none of that out-of-left-field shock element attached to it; audiences are now not only expecting but looking forward to more wacky Jackie. But Verbinski and the returning Elliott and Rossio find other ways to surprise. Not that there isn't plenty of what audiences want and expect; the trio of Jack, dashing hero Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, regaining his footing after Elizabethtown), and plucky heroine Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, back to delivering dialogue through clenched teeth after her Oscar-nominated Pride & Prejudice turn) again take to the seas for another adventure, this time to search for the "dead man's chest" of the title, which contains the beating heart of the legendary ruler of the sea Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), to whom Jack owes a blood debt. Along the way, there's all manner of swashbuckling swordfighting that one comes to expect in--once again--a somewhat bloated two-hour-plus run time.

Verbinski finds giddy new ways of staging the mayhem, though, and an antic Looney Tunes sensibility amps up the two key action set pieces to even greater crowd-pleasing levels. But he doesn't rest on his popularity-proven laurels; with the character of Davy Jones, Verbinski and his visual effects team break startling new ground. Jones and the crew of his otherworldly ship The Flying Dutchman bear all the ravages of years of undersea damnation--that is, acquiring certain aquatic qualities--and the CG "makeup" done to bring the likes Jones's tentacled, squid-like head to life defies accurate description much like Depp's performance in the first film. While computer generated, the effects are remarkably tactile, the most meticulous digital approximation of practical FX to date. But considering such razzle dazzle is expected from big budget blockbuster follow-ups, the most surprising trick up Verbinski and the writers' sleeve is that this is not a typical sequel rehash but a rather ambitious and largely successful attempt at making a continuation of a larger story, with the film opening with events fully in progress and closing with not only loose narrative ends still dangling but the characters at more precarious points in a less predictable overall arc--not exactly what one ever expected from a series of films that is, after all, based on a theme park attraction.

But for whatever unusual ambitions, Dead Man's Chest, like its predecessor, also doesn't lose sight of those just-for-fun origins; while Verbinski still could stand to employ some tighter editing (there's really no detectable reason why these occasionally draggy films can't have a half-hour shaved off), it's the rollicking ride that keeps the audience coming back for more--and will keep them coming back for more when At World's End concludes the trilogy next summer.


In Brief

Krrish poster Krrish ***
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A Scanner Darkly one-sheet A Scanner Darkly (R) ***
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Richard Linklater's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's cult classic novel finds the maverick director using his Waking Life digital rotoscoping animation technique in the service of a more plot-driven film--and the disorienting, otherworldly visual style is a perfect fit for this futuristic tale about a deep cover cop (Keanu Reeves) getting increasingly lost in a haze of drugs and shifting perceptions and identities as he's called on to investigate himself and his equally drug-addled friends (Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, and Winona Ryder). That summation is a lot more straightforward than the execution in the film itself. While there is a story here and characters to follow, the loose narrative flow and philosophical musings make this, like Waking Life, more of an intellectually engaging exercise than an emotional one; as such, it is difficult to feel truly invested in the fate of the cop or his motley crew. That said, the performances (particularly Downey's) are uniformly solid, and through the hypnotic visuals and music (by Graham Reynolds), Linklater creates an eerie, mysterious, menacing hyperreality that engulfs the mind and senses--which appears to be the greater, intended point.


You, Me and Dupree one-sheet You, Me and Dupree (PG-13) **
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The most pressing thought I had while walking out of this lazy Owen Wilson comedy was how much money a friend received for the prominent use of two hit singles he'd written--not exactly what I'm sure directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo had in mind. Not that the top billed star shows any signs of sluggishness; Wilson's work as the Dupree of the title is the only real sign of life in this predictable tale of a slacker who becomes an increasingly unwelcome houseguest to his best friend (Matt Dillon) and new bride (Kate Hudson). The typical privacy invasion and crude mayhem ensues, as does the inevitable, improbable turning of the tide when Dupree's obnoxiousness somehow starts to endear him to others. Wilson's innate, unassuming sweetness make that latter point somewhat easier to swallow, but what makes the film as a whole less so is that the Russo brothers obviously just let Wilson to his own devices to do his usual thing and hope that all the other assembled elements somehow stick. They don't--the trio of Wilson, Dillon, and Hudson exhibit very little chemistry in every pairing permutation; and the subplot of Dillon constantly being belittled by Hudson's father/his boss (Michael Douglas) seems like it was an A-plot in an unrelated script that somehow got shoved in. And that reflects the central problem: the film is remarkably forced--ironic, considering it's a starring vehicle for an actor whose most defining quality is his laid-back, unaffected demeanor.


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