Failing on all cylinders
It’s whimsically curious that Hollywood has delivered two stylistically polar-opposite films about disillusioned Hollywood writers in such quick succession, and that they are both, for equally different reasons, flagrant wastes of time and talent.William Monahan, who has written a number of solid and well-regarded screenplays (including for the inferior Infernal Affairs remake, Martin Scorsese’s DiCaprio/Damon thriller, The Departed), hasn’t fared quite as well behind the camera himself, with his debut feature, the Colin Farrell/Keira Knightley vehicle London Boulevard – a flawed but stylistically decent and suitably gritty first film which, at its best, evokes a certain Get Carter vibe – flopping at the Box Office and seeing any follow-up film put on a back-burner until now.This time he takes current hot property Oscar Isaac (whose memorable support in Drive, and impressive lead with Inside Llewyn Davis, was followed by a strong turn in the superb sci-fi gem Ex Machina and, of course, now a promising Blockbuster future as Star Wars’ new ace X-Wing pilot, Poe Dameron) and throws himself into the desert as a wig-wearing, bad-toothed hillbilly drifter who inexplicably confronts a wandering lost soul rich Hollywood brat, played by Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), insinuates that he’s the devil, and then equally inexplicably tells him that he spends his time preying on strangers lost in the desert.
What could have been an intriguing cat-and-mouse horror/thriller in the vein of The Hitcher actually stalls before it even gets started, with Isaac proving a woefully ineffective threat and Hedlund instead returning to his vacuous rich kid life, despite all that has happened, and their subsequent encounters feeling like they’re out of a completely different movie – one where something actually happens.
The Hitcher meets Malick's Knight of Cups for another lesson in wasted talent and ineffective storytelling.
Whether Monahan was attempting to take a skewed look at Hollywood emptiness (in the same way as Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups) and introduce this ‘devil persona’ as a reflection of the more malevolent side to the character of the Hollywood player himself, which is desperate to come out, or merely play out an alternatively-styled version of a more traditional cat-and-mouse psychopath flick, the end result is deeply flawed and ineffective, with the cast unable to make their characters even interesting, let alone sympathetic. Despite the attempts to stray from the norm, the script is a walking Hollywood cliché about Hollywood’s emptiness, and instead merely proves itself woefully empty.
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