Making his directional debut, Korean filmmaker Jieho Lee brings us The Air That I Breathe. Based on an old Chinese proverb that breaks life down into four emotions, the main characters in the story are actually named after those emotions.
First up we have Happiness. Played by Academy award winner Forrest Whitaker, Happiness is the first character we meet on our journey. A stockbroker of sorts, he's looking for a way to make lots of money. He overhears a conversation in the toilet at work about a horserace. The race has been fixed and Butterfly is a dead cert. A true believer in fate, a butterfly flew through his window that morning and landed on his hand...so he decides to place a bet on the horse. He borrows fifty thousand dollars from a loan shark and it all goes wrong...
Pleasure is played by Brendan Fraser and is a customer of Happiness. Every week, like clockwork, Pleasure will arrive at Happiness desk and deposit large amounts of money - in cash - to be invested on the stock market.
It turns out that Pleasure is actually a henchman for Fingers (played by Andy Garcia - and not one of the emotions...). Fingers has his, err, fingers in many pies - and his main source of income is loan sharking. So, when the bet goes wrong and Happiness is dragged in for a reminder to pay up, guess who dishes out the reminder...? You got it - Pleasure.
In case you hadn't got it by now, this is one of those movies ala Crash, where people's lives intermingle with each others to the point of actually dictating destiny
Anyway - back to the story...Fingers is owed a lot of money by the manager of Sorrow (Sarah Michelle Gellar), the latest thing in the pop world - kind of Britney Spears in her heyday.
The manager doesn't have the money so Fingers takes over Sorrows contract - and tasks Pleasure to watch over her. One thing leads to another and the two fall head over heels for each other...
But hey - there's one missing right? Correct. Love is a doctor played by the out of sorts Kevin Bacon. His best mate has up and married his high school sweetheart. The woman in question has an accident whilst carrying out some tests in a lab and will die unless she has a complete blood transfusion within 24 hours. Trouble is, she has an ultra rare blood group and there's none anywhere in the US. You won't be surprised to learn that one of our other three emotions has the correct blood type (I wasn't - and I'm not letting on which one...) and the circle is complete.
It all sounds rather good on paper doesn't it? And the story is a good one - if not very original. The problem with this film is the pace. If I had known that it was going to be so slow, I would have painted the wall behind my screen and watch the paint dry - it probably would have been a little more interesting.
The story isn't helped by the fact that the majority of the dialogue is whispered - except when Andy Garcia gets all angry on us. Garcia's character Fingers is the central cog in the movie machine here. He brings all the characters together at one time or another - and, as usual, Garcia turns in a good but not brilliant performance. The star of the show here is actually Brendan Fraser. Having to go from nasty debt collector to all loved up is no mean feat - and he does it very well. The problem with Fraser is that he has never found his comfort zone in the world of films. He'll go from a perfectly acceptable performance in a film that beckons to be taken seriously - like this. And for his next trick, he'll appear in Journey to the Centre of The Earth and the latest Mummy movie in the same summer. If he wants to be taken seriously as an actor, he needs to pick his niche - I'd suggest more movies like this. Next to Gods and Monsters, this is his best performance.
So, bottom line - is it any good? The story is relatively easy to follow which actually surprised me. It could have gone oh so wrong. However, the reason it's easy to follow is because it's so slow...had it not been for the problem following the dialogue (see the sound section for more info), I think I would have enjoyed it more. As it was, it took me two sittings to get through the whole movie so I'm going to find it really hard to recommend I'm afraid.
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