Monday, October 6, 2014

norman reedus film festival: floating and pulse



Floating: (1997. dir: William Roth) It's one of those movies about a kid (once again, Reedus is playing younger than his age) asking the question, "What do I do with my life?" and getting Hollywood's only answer, "Either college, or crime. There is NO THIRD CHOICE." (Which is a funny message coming from Hollywood. Think Woody Allen went to college? thrown out of NYU after one semester, then dropped out of CCNY. Kevin Bacon, Jack Benny, Naomi Watts, Quentin Tarantino, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Peter Bogdanovich: all high school drop-outs. Brando was expelled from both high school and military academy. Paul Thomas Anderson? left NYU after two days. David Fincher? jumped straight from high school into Lucasfilm to work on the ewoks, and Humphrey Bogart flunked out of Andover. Charlie Chaplin never finished the English equivalent of grade school. Norman Reedus? one semester at Bethany College, in the Swedish part of Kansas, in 1987.)

This boy, Van, lives on the edge of the '90s punk rock scene (no women in the mosh pit, bands with heavy-muscled, sweaty, shirtless, Rollins-type singers) but the film itself sports a super-sweet soundtrack by David Mansfield (the fellow who was my personal favorite part of Heaven's Gate). It's ostensibly a coming-of-age movie about a straight boy finding his way without sacrificing his honor, but in truth it's a fairly thinly disguised gay fantasy with a Madame Butterfly finale.

Flawed as it is (slowly paced, with an unevenly-told story), it's a beautiful coming-out party for Reedus. It's his first big film: not his best work, but he's already strong enough to bear it aloft, and the whole thing radiates outward from him, from the easy command of his presence.

Rating: two and a half stars
Reedus Factor: four stars



*SPOILER ALERT*

Pulse: (2002. dir: Marcus Adams) On a late night drive, a mother and teenaged daughter bicker and hallucinate. By the end of the night, they have fought their way free from the clutches of a murderous cult. Or have they?

The story is so disjointed and dreamlike that it's possible it only makes sense if you think of it as a fever-dream in the pill-addled, half-asleep, at-the-end-of-her-tethered mind of the mother (Madeleine Stowe). Mischa Barton is the petulant girl-child, nubile of body but still a girl elsewise. There's a lot of tricksey photography and effects which bolster the dream-quality, but can be annoying until you sink into the aesthetic. The only successful way to watch this, in fact, may be late at night in a fever or a dream-stupor, so you can turn your left brain off and let the right brain play.

Reedus gets a different kind of turn as a lurking, watcher guy, The Recovery Man, he's called, the guy in the tow-truck. These cultees, they kill people by causing auto accidents and lure girls estranged from their families into the ongoing rave in the back of their empty oil tanker. The Jim Jones is played by Jonathan Rhys-Myers, who is good at that sort of thing. He's the sort of guy who can slice his tongue open, slow and sexy for shock appeal, then still has no trouble speaking clearly. Lots of minor mutilation in this one. We watch close-up the piercing of a belly button, that sort of thing. There's a lot of fascination with the mingling of cars and blood, sort of Crash-inspired, but nowhere near as inspired as Crash.

And what's with the razor blade ending? What is it supposed to mean, exactly, beyond a gesture of ill-defined menace? How did it get into the car? are we to take it as confirmation that the whole thing is a folie-a-deux, a shared and manifested hallucination from the two women's brains, and the razor blade is a sign that although the night of terror is through, the underlying tumult which launched it into being still lurks at the threshhold, and may, like Dracula, rise up again?

Well, OK. When I put it that way, it's far more interesting. I initially read it to mean the film-maker didn't know how to end the story.

Rating: two stars, maybe more late at night if you're stoned
Reedus Factor: three stars

photo courtesy of fanzone 50: http://www.fanzone50.com/Norman/Pulse.html

Friday, October 3, 2014

single-scene reedus, part two



Luster: (2002. dir: Everett Lewis) This was a projet du coeur for someone, writer/director Lewis, I guess, a fantasia to his own erotic homosex. It's a z-grade indie film with romantic pretentions to punk-rock DIY, made on a budget of five bucks and a case of beer, with a ton of heart, really bad sound, and exactly two good performances in it (Shane Powers as Sam and Susannah Melvoin as Sandra). That said, I know for a fact that this is somebody's favorite movie ever made; some gay kid in, I don't know, Nebraska, is even as we speak wearing out his old VHS copy with multiple viewings, using it as a doorway into a dreamworld of deliverance. There's an argument to be made that there is no greater achievement, no higher calling for a film-maker than that.

Reedus has one scene; he is the Sextools Delivery Boy. He comes in, gets the guy to sign for the delivery, stretches provocatively, flirts nonchalantly, taking the pen out of the guy's mouth, then doesn't hesitate when he's invited into the bathroom. Once there, he's asked if he wants a blowjob. Following the time-honored tradition of straight guys throughout history in that position, he asks, "How much?" Once a deal is brokered, he advances toward the kid who's going to do the work.

That's it; that's his whole bit. Mostly, he broadcasts that particular admixture of jokey embarrassment, blush of flattery, and edge of belligerence which is also the traditional response from straight men on finding themselves desired by other men. Reedus the Superstar has always had a sizable gay following, though: between this, Floating, Dark Harbor, and the so-homophobic-it's-homoerotically-epic Boondock Saints, he's like a gay icon. Plus, he donned drag for a Bjork video (what could BE more gay?), and now, they hint darkly, it will come out that Daryl Dixon is perhaps the world's first sympathetic, rednecked queer. He's a ground-breaker.

Rating: one and a half stars, but not for lack of trying, and I'm not part of its specific demographic
Reedus Factor: zero stars



A Lot Like Love: (2005. dir: Nigel Cole) Ward Bond used to do this to me all the time. I waste a whole Netflix rental on a movie I know he's going to be in for like a second, and then it turns out that second is right at the beginning, like he plays a cab driver stuck in traffic and the heroine leaps out of the cab and runs down the street and that's the last you see of him. Then I'm stuck with two hours of a movie I never would have chosen to watch of my own free will.

If you're like me and tend to avoid the romcoms, this is neither the best nor the worst you will ever see. It's actually closer to the top of the scale than the bottom. It's derivative, yes, most shamelessly of Four Weddings and a Funeral, but if you're going to derive, might as well pilfer from the best. On the plus side, the Girl is not only played by Amanda Peet, she's also not obsessed with weddings, children, shopping, shoes, accessories, or her career. Also on the plus side, Ashton Kutcher is never as bad as you think he's going to be, and he wields a certain charm.

Reedus is Peet's musician-boyfriend when we first see her, dropping her at the airport and breaking up with her over the credits. He's like a blur of activity. Honestly, you never even get a clear glimpse of him.

Rating: two and a half stars
Reedus Factor: zero stars



Cadillac Records: (2008. dir: Darnell Martin) Sentimental journey backwards through the history of Chess Records and the original black superstars of the blues. The characters are full and complex, the relationships realistically fraught, the music is (as demanded in such a venture) great. The color scheme glows with a sort of warm amber light. The cast is particularly good, led by a downright inspired Jeffrey Wright, who shines as Muddy Waters. It's still nostalgic hogwash, of course, highlighted by sometimes shrieking melodrama, but there's a reason the movies keep returning to this formula. It's got legs: there's enjoyment to be had in travelling ancient, well-scrubbed roads.

Reedus officially has more than one scene, but he's always just hanging around in the background. You never really see him properly.

Rating: two and a half stars
Reedus Factor: zero stars



Pawn Shop Chronicles: (2013. dir: Wayne Kramer) A pawn shop in the deep South plays centerpiece to this comic-book-shaped tryptych of stories. There's a coulrophobic tweaker, an Elvis impersonator, an army of naked zombie women, a pair of white supremacists who are trying to puzzle out why they should hate Jews and black people ("I went to the meetings for those little smoky sausages, next thing I know I'm a card-carrying member, with the tats and everything"), salvation showing up in the form of the Marlboro Man driving a pickup with a gun-rack and the devil in the form of an evangelical handing out leaflets, a lot of very smooth and inventive camerawork, and, even more surprisingly, very fine acting. (So that's Paul Walker. I get it. It's sad in so many respects.)

Reedus, I'm guessing from the musculature and the tattoos, is the meth-cook in the gas-mask. It's hard to judge a performance that's filtered through a gas-mask, but his scene is extreme in a good way, and it's kind of funny when a guy in a gas-mask cracks up laughing at a guy in a clown mask.

And why is it funny when a guy in a grinning clown-mask is screaming in terror? I mean it. It made me laugh. Is there something wrong with me?

Rating: two and a half stars
Reedus Factor: one and a half stars



Mimic: (1997. dir: Guillermo del Toro) Del Toro loves some visual tropes: the aesthetics of plastic sheets draped over things, for one. (Thanks to my friend Sam Gregory for pointing it out.) Underground tunnels, slime on stone. Wetness in general: viscera, effluvium and discharge, and bodies, often of the young, caught and preserved in jars. In Mimic, the young are of a superstud cockroach species, one which has evolved to a stage at which its physique mimics that of its primary predator: namely, us. So, as later in Blade II, we have a humanish face which cracks open and unfolds to reveal the monster beneath. Quite the metaphor.

We also have a vernal Norman Reedus, in one scene, vivacity amid the darkness. He's young, vibrant, doofus, full of life, and we only get him for a minute before we plunge back into the subterranean slime.

Rating: two stars
Reedus Factor: two and a half stars

Sunday, September 28, 2014

single-scene reedus: pandorum and i'm losing you



Pandorum: (2009. dir: Christian Alvart) It's a darkly-lit, quickly-paced, sci-fi psychological thriller, and monsters come included in the package. Probably it belongs loosely in a category with Alien and Pitch Black, but also with a foot set firmly in Moon territory. If it fails ultimately to satisfy, the fault lies with its method of communicating the onset of madness: filming with quick cuts and from strange angles a man moving fast and erratically, giving a beetle-like effect, coupled with the usual "I'm mad! I'm mad!" grins and grimaces. Unfortunately, enough of it is included in the climactic scenes that it's hard to hold the tension; it crosses into unintentional humor.

Outside of that, I can't find much to fault it, as long as you're willing to exercise your suspension-of-disbelief muscles some, but it's hard to get excited about it, either. The monsters are a sort of nefarious cross between orcs and Firefly reivers, and waking disoriented from suspended animation on a long space voyage is a brilliant device for setting up ongoing horror and doubt. Ben Foster is the lead, and there's something inherently creepy about him, which plays well when we're trying to figure out the good guys from the bad, but in the end it's hard to fully buy his nice-guy act.

I just watched this movie about half a year ago, and I honestly didn't remember Reedus was in it, so I watched it again. There he is, in one great scene, a member of the flight crew on this vast, crippled, chaos-riddled ship, living in the throes of ongoing terror and privation, when our newly-roused hero runs across him. He gives us a full five minutes of nothing but varying degrees of panic, dread, and psychic anguish. When I watch him in something like this, or Red Canyon, in which he's so fully assured in his task, it makes me think that his failures come when directors fail simply to give him enough to do. When he has a pointed task to accomplish, or a heightened enough emotional state to explore, he never sets a foot wrong. It's in the meandering movies in which he stumbles, when the stakes aren't high enough, the emotional demands diffused. Maybe the director's hand is too weak to guide him. Or maybe he just gets bored.

Rating: two and a half stars
Reedus Factor: two and a half stars



I'm Losing You: (1998. dir: Bruce Wagner) Unapologetic melodrama, leavened some by Jewish mysticism, set amongst the Hollywood elite and its offspring. (Wagner is the guy who wrote the screenplay for Cronenberg's new and controversial, anti-Hollywood acid-scather, Maps to the Stars.)

The best part is that there's some interesting talk about menstruation, a subject infrequently addressed on the silver screen. Reedus is going down on the Rosanna Arquette character until interrupted by, well, menstruation. She says to him, "Older men like the blood," to which he retorts, horrified, "Well, then, go fuck an old guy." As he's leaving, she laughs and says, "Don't go away mad. Just go away." Those two lines of hers, taken together, are some of the most startling and unexpectedly delightful I've heard from an onscreen woman's mouth in some time. Reedus' unnamed boytoy character (she avoids introducing him properly to her brother and niece as he's leaving, and after he's gone, refers to him as the plumber) really only exists to more sharply delineate her, and then he vanishes, nameless, no doubt to find a less complicated woman, leaving her to her philosophical musings and the crowd of whispering voices in her head.

This movie is a kind of a familial soap-opera fortress from which one stands protected whilst staring at death: the main characters are a grown brother (Andrew McCarthy) and adoptive sister (Arquette) whose father (Frank Langella), the wealthy producer of a Trek-ish type sci-fi TV franchise, is dying. Death, in fact, is omnipresent. The dead and dying and death-obsessed pile up in heaps before the end. This film-maker wants you to think about it, the shuffling off of the mortal coil, but his attitude can pretty much be summed up in the fact that the AIDS-stricken Elizabeth Perkins character is in the story as long as she's still beautiful and well-coiffed, but tastefully leaves the screen before crumbling into the unsightly grotesquery of her death-throes. In short, this guy wants you to think about death, poetically and philosophically, but he doesn't trust you to deal with its physical realities.

Rating: one and a half stars
Reedus Factor: one and a half stars

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

norman reedus film festival: night of the templar



*SPOILER ALERT*

(2012. dir: Paul Sampson) Aristotle said, "If one listens to the wrong kind of music, he will become the wrong kind of person." If there'd been cinema back then, he'd have included it in his caution, and I'm beginning to wonder if, as I dig down into the dregs of Reedus' resume, I might be slowly mutating into some older, more troglodyte form. Certainly I'm cursing more than I used to. That's all preamble to my warning to you: even the keenest Reedus fans may have some trouble with this one.

You know how sometimes at a party someone will ask what what was the worst movie that you ever saw? and the question covers too much ground, it's too huge, you can't even begin to answer it? I'm not saying this is the worst movie I've ever seen, but I guarantee it'll be one of the select which pop into my head next time someone asks.

First of all, it's a vanity project. This guy Paul Sampson wrote it, directs it, stars in it. That should set off your crap-detector right there. Nobody but Woody Allen should try all three at once, and, for the last thirty years, not even him. We'll allow Warren Beatty his Reds, and Orson Welles his Citizen Kane, but those pieces of genius are the exceptions, not the rule.

It's a double story, jumping back and forth in time. It begins in the 14th century, with a band of Crusaders led by their own Percival, a blood-smeared, holier-than-all-of-thou guy named Gregoire. Lord Morris (possibly Maurice?) McGuirk Gregoire of Reading, to be exact. Reading is in England, not far from London; Ethelred and Alfred the Great fought the Vikings there in the 9th century, and lost. McGuirk is an Anglicized version of a Gaelic name which shows up in Scotland and Ireland from the late 13th century. So is this cat Scottish (and,if so, what's he doing in Reading, for crying out loud?) or did his family come over from France with the Conqueror? he has a modern American accent, with some Bronx in it, I think, although he tries to soften it by throwing in the odd "'tis"; he says "pureness" when he means "purity" and "prophesized" instead of "prophesied". I don't know. I'm just saying.

Anyway, you have a band of Templars, some of whom turn treacherous, sell their souls in exchange for "ten lifetimes of excess," assassinating poor, pure Gregoire in the meantime, who vows, with his dying words, to return at the end of the allotted lifespans to wreak his vengeance upon each and every one. The other half of the story is set in modern day, in a medieval castle, where the reincarnation of Gregoire has been hired as "events coordinator" for an assemblage of disparate folks gathered to experience the Weekend of Their Dreams. Never mind that the dream of one is to rape all the women, which might easily interfere with the dreams of the women. None of that matters, because in truth these are the reincarnated Judas-Templars at the end of their given stretch, and it's time to pay the righteously angry piper.

This is where things get dodgy. First of all, we're on theologically shaky ground, since Thomas Aquinas will tell you (with rage in his voice) that the Catholic Church holds no truck with metempsychosis, and the Templars were unequivocally Catholic soldiers, so what's up with the reincarnation? unless you want to argue the Templars were worshipping some other god, like the notorious Baphomet, or belonged to some Manichean strain of pseudo-Christian heresy, but it's evident from the basics of the story as told that these good Knights certainly thought they were fighting for the Pope and the Catholic Church.

Alright, that's nitpicking, granted. The real crux of the moral problem lies elsewhere: since only a few of the victims recall their true identities and so know they're walking into battle, what we end up with is the piecemeal slaughter of unarmed women and weaklings. Henry Flesh (Reedus) is one of the latter. He's a sensualist (ie: a chain-smoking, sex-fiend, rapist guy who enjoys some kind of "animal thing" which is never explained), a fellow who's looking for a big fuckfest and who winds up instead on the skewery end of a Crusader sword, splattered all over the barkdust. Is that really holy revenge? Ten incarnations past the wrongdoing, defenceless and unprepared, and the wrath of God descends in the form of a hardened warrior to, what, cut a woman's throat while she's drawing a bath? What kind of God is this, again? I don't know. I'm just saying.

I'm talking about these things because I don't know what else to talk about. Some movies make you feel like a bully just for reviewing them, because they're so far subpar they don't even count as real movies.

To his credit, Reedus throws himself with glee and enthusiasm into the role. He's wearing old-school Keds on his feet, or are they Converse All-Stars? it's endearing, and kind of funny, and they figure into his death scene. He gets to say things like, "You see her? I'm gonna do some dirty shit to that one," and, during a blow-job, he takes off his belt and wraps it around his neck, which would normally seem an inspired choice, except that this is David Carradine's last movie, and so it seems creepy instead.

I want you to wrap your mind around that. This was David Carradine's last hurrah. What kind of foul luck is that?

Rating: zero stars
Reedus Factor: one and a half stars

Saturday, September 20, 2014

norman reedus film festival: red canyon



*SPOILER ALERT*

(2008. dir: Giovanni Rodriguez) A van full of partying college kids heads out into the desert, into Bofuck, Nowhere, where two of the kids, a brother and sister, have rights to an abandoned and dilapidated family home. After some ominous encounters with unfriendly locals, the law, a vicious dog, and decrepit tunnels, the kids have a nice picnic and go home.

Kidding! Actually, they get picked off, one by one, beheaded and impaled and eviscerated and such, during a night of extreme terror. And the town is not really called Bofuck, Nowhere, but Cainsville, which gives you a hint right off the bat about some pending revelations. Most twists of the "mystery" are pretty easy to guess, and, indeed, the "mystery" is not really the point, is it? The point is that we all get to watch some uppity kids suffer and die! Wahoo. Good times.

The story is that some years earlier the siblings had endured an ordeal in a nearby "partying" cave, an incident which the girl has never been able to remember clearly or to move beyond. Apparently the moral here is that sometimes opening old wounds doesn't so much lead to healing as, well, opening newer and possibly fatal wounds. It wasn't just the two kids affected, either, but the whole town. As the Reedus character puts it, "What happened in the cave that day fucked us all."

Reedus is Mac, the cold-bloodedest sociopath you'll ever see, and he brings him roaring to life with his usual panache and with total commitment. You remember in the Deuces Wild review when I said that if he'd played the character five years later, it'd have been better? This is what I meant. This character also has not one ounce of the good kind of humanity in him, he is the Utter Embodiment of Malevolence, same as that other guy, but in this one he storms onscreen full-bore, no quarter given, and you never doubt he's a full-bodied person. You can taste his sweat in your mouth as soon as he walks onscreen.

It was filmed in the badlands of Utah, so the scenery is strange and gorgeous. The Climactic Reveal flashbacks are edited so that you can't exactly tell what's happening, which kind of negates the point of a Climactic Reveal, if you ask me, and one of the characters speaks with so heavy an accent they subtitle him, which is distracting and a little odd. And, OK, whatever happened to the venerated slasher film tradition of the Last Girl's ultimate triumph? All of the men in this movie exist solely to kill or be killed, and the women exist solely to be raped and die. Does all this add up to a good time for somebody?

Rating: two and a (reluctant) half stars
Reedus Factor: three and a half stars


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

norman reedus film festival: the bad seed



(2000. dir: Jon Bokenkamp) This movie is fundamentally flawed, at its core, and then again at nearly every layer up to its skin. The editing is bad, the pacing is off, the music is intrusive and godawful. In other hands, it might have been an interesting psychological thriller. Maybe. But it's another one of those plots predicated on a woman A) dying B) being idealized and C) existing solely to instigate a cycle of violence among men. (See Sand, for instance, which distributes the three conditions among two women, but both exist solely for the one purpose. Or A Crime, in fact, fits the same bill, although it redeems itself through strong direction and by employing a living, flawed, active woman as its main character and internal dynamo.)

The basic premise is this: a woman tells her husband she's been having an affair, but it's over. He storms out of the house, and when he returns, she is dead. After that, the ex-lover and the husband set about trying to kill each other while the cops are after them both.

Much of the dialogue and feeling-tone of the movie (set in Tacoma, in the rain) can be summed up in the statement (I'm paraphrasing, of course) "Women. Can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em. Oh, wait, maybe you can." It's about men being abandoned by women and how they deal with their anger and grieving. That's what it wants to be about, anyway, but instead it pretends to be an action movie, with chase scenes, then fight scenes, then chase scenes, then fight scenes, few of them compellingly captured. It's got a three man cast: Luke Wilson is fully bemused in the nice-guy-in-a-trap role that Edward G. Robinson used to play in the old noirs, Dennis Farina gives a game effort as the private dick he hires to help him, but it always feels like he's a character in a television drama, and Reedus is surprisingly miscast and one-dimensional as the jilted lover of the dead woman.

The role as written calls for a young (or emotionally-stunted, anyway) man who's led an entirely sheltered life, devoting the bulk of it to caring for his damaged brother while working in a bakery. The dead woman is the only adventure he's ever known, and this is the fiery internal furnace which fuels his homicidal rage at her loss. The trouble is, Reedus is too streetwise to come across that way. In order to make it work, we need some of the innocent-Reedus we saw in Six Ways to Sunday or Gossip, and he's just not here. When the husband reads the lover's old diary, the wow-I-got-a-girlfriend entries are absurd coming from the jaded, even world-weary Reedus.

In the end, there's some sweetness to the melancholy, but it's not in the saccharine places the script-writer wanted them, which were at the bus-stop, in the jail visiting room, and in the cemetery. Those are all clumsy and unaffecting. Without giving too much away, the sweetness comes from Reedus' face at the gas station, when the actor's world-surfeited persona finally melds with his character's emotional exhaustion.

Rating: two stars
Reedus Factor: two stars

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

norman reedus film festival: sand



(2000. dir: Matt Palmieri) Here's a hypothetical situation: you live a quiet life in a mellow, surfside town with your beach-bum pals. Two cokeheaded, trailer-trash douchebags (John Hawkes and Rodney Eastman) show up from the desert and try to rape your beloved sister. You take the toughest of your beach-bum pals, find the malefactors and fuck them up, really humiliate them. Then, once recovered, the aforesaid douchebags catch you alone on the beach. They pull a couple of Glocks (maybe not Glocks, but some kind of badassed weaponry) on you and, just as they're getting ready to dust your sorry ass, your surfer buddy Trip (played by Emilio Estevez) shows up swinging a piece of driftwood and knocks them both cold.

This is my question: what do you do next? Do you
A) take their guns to the cops and tell your story, trusting that you'll get the benefit of the doubt over these obvious criminal low-lifes, or
B) take their guns and destroy them? perhaps you might throw them in the ocean, or bury them someplace unobtrusive, or even disassemble them and distribute the pieces throughout various dumpsters in town, or
C) have a laugh with your friend Trip and leave the lethal weapons lying next to the now-twice-humiliated, violence-prone douchebags, assuming they won't bother you anymore?

If you chose option C, you're of the same mindset as Jack (Norman Reedus), which is really kind of sad for both of you.

Sand looks like it wants to become a love story, but it doesn't, and the eponymous girl (Kari Wuhrer) actually turns out to be a lesser character. She has a few good scenes in which she comes to life, but in the end you might be forgiven for mistaking her for a gussied-up plot device. In truth, this is the story of how men kick the bejesus out of each other while citing women as the excuse, and how you can tell the bad ones from the good because the bad blame women for their problems, whereas the good blame the fucked-up male side of their family.

Whoever this Matt Palmieri guy is, he has some friends in the business. (And now that I'm looking at his bio on IMDB, I can see why.) He gets people like Harry Dean Stanton to take tiny non-roles. He hires Denis Leary to do his motor-mouthed jive-talk thing, depending on it to carry too many scenes. There are way too many endless partying improvisations, his cameraman doesn't know when it's appropriate to pull in for a close-up, and there's a protracted near-rape scene which was probably majorly improvised or it wouldn't have gone on so long, as if the director, and then the editor, got really impressed by what the actors were coming up with and didn't want to cheat us out of a single moment. There's also Jon Lovitz and Julie Delpy who are just plain awful as bickering motel-owners. There's so much wrong with this movie, it's hard to know where to start and how to proceed, how to rate what's most important in the wrongheadedness.

But it carries a heap of refulgence, as well. Lots of good music playing while the camera watches an old Ford drive down Highway 1, and the colors of the whole thing are vivid and lovely, stunningly lit. David Baerwald (remember that one-hit-record band David & David? Alright, you're probably too young) is in charge of the music, and that works to the good. In fact, Palmieri leans too much weight on that, too, expecting it to carry long segments and segueways and one particular b&w memory sequence which he just LOVES and sticks on perpetual, annoying repeato-loop mode.

Jack is the kind of role a lot of actors would have suffered some difficulty over, having to reconcile that he truly is a nice, good-hearted kid with his switchover (well-motivated, granted) into a ferocity of violence. Not Reedus, though. This is the kind of apparent contradiction at which he excels. His vastness easily encompasses this dichotomy; in fact, he specializes in it.

Rating: one and a half stars
Reedus Factor: three stars