Wolfgang Petersen is known for directing some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters over the years including Air Force One, The Neverending Story, The Perfect Storm and Troy. One thing he hasn’t done much of is writing, other than the melodramatic, Hitchockian 1991 thriller Shattered, which is kind of a mess. Whether it’s the source novel by Richard Neely that’s dodgy or Petersen’s screenplay that dropped the ball, this film doesn’t quite clearly delineate it’s plot points, many of which are so far beyond plausible it’s hard to really get a grip on the story or keep a straight face. Tom Berenger plays a powerful businessman who accidentally launches his car off a highway outcrop into a spectacular swan dive that leaves his face looking like a dirt bike track and his memory more absent than of Jason Bourne’s. After some facial reconstruction he’s back on his feet and in the arms of his wife (Greta Scacchi), but something just doesn’t quite seem right. The memories she tells him of before the accident don’t seem real to him, he starts gathering clues relating to some kind of infidelity or cover up and his intuition just tells him he’s being thrown for a loop. This is where the film’s narrative sort of imitates that car and drives right over the edge of comprehension; The serpentine twists and turns employed are sort of fun but have absolutely no place in the real world, let alone even a hard boiled thriller like this. Bob Hoskins is fun as a snarky veterinarian who moonlights as a PI, trying to help Berenger fit the pieces together. Corbin Bernsen listlessly plays yet another smarmy role as his ex business partner, I sometimes wonder if they’ve ever given that guy a role worth his salt or if his career is cursed with playing the annoyingly extroverted debonair who has zero depth. Joanne Whalley Kilmer shows up as some psychic who throws around vague threats and acts like she knows something but isn’t even sure herself what it is, which is the feeling the script gives you. By the time the final revelations make themselves known and we see what really happened after the accident it’s kind of fun but also just riddled with inconsistencies and eye roll moments. It isn’t a bad film though, and has a few moments. There’s great cinematography of Oregon and San Francisco as well as a foggy shipwreck that holds a few secrets and gives off spooky ambience. The score by Alan Silvestri is steamy in places, rousing in others and gets the job done. It’s just the story that sort of treats us like we’re idiots, and as if we not only haven’t seen this story done before, but seen it done better.
Baja is one of those dusty, hazy B movies that seems to serve no other purpose other than to fill the 90 minute cable slot between 2am and 3:30 on TBS Superstation (yes I still remember that). But these flicks have their niche in the cinematic zeitgeist, and there’s a spot in my insanely busy schedule for each and every one, when time allows. This one is a lonely little piece of hard boiled desert pulp starring Molly Ringwald and Lance Henriksen, concerning drug deals gone wrong, betrayal, a hitman, a crime boss (Corbin Bernsen, whatever happened to him?) who chases his meds with hard-bar, lots of sand and washed out sun-bleach colour, some Cessna action and a hazy vibe that’s best attained by skulling a few brews before you settle in. Ringwald and Donal Logue play a couple trying to broker a deal out there near the Salton Sea, a deal that goes horribly wrong and ends up with eccentric contract killer Burns (Henriksen) being dispatched to find and kill them, or something vague like that. He spends less time actually being proactive though and instead wanders around, gets drunk, bitches about his wife, searches for hookers and basically does everything but the job he was hired to do. It’s hilarious watching Lance chew scenery and have a sand blast with his performance, seemingly a dude that wandered in dazed and heavily confused from a Coen Brothers flick. It all just kind of meanders past without a lot of fanfare until the final few frames when Henriksen hires a drunken bush pilot (Jack Conley) and flies off in his rickety plane out of the film, leaving us in the dust trying to decipher what is a fairly convoluted, strange little story. It’s fun for what it is though, has gorgeous scenery of rural California and Lance’s central performance is fun. Good luck ever finding it though, I snagged a battered old VHS tape in some forgotten store on Vancouver Island years ago.
Across The Line: The Exodus Of Charlie Wright is the very definition of overlooked. It was probably underfunded and squeaked forth through meager marketing a few years ago, neither of which has prevented it from triumphing as a sharp little sleeper flick that of course nobody saw. The central theme is age and regret, each character finding themselves at some sad crossroads, placed there by the decisions they’ve made in the past and the ways in which they have conducted themselves up to the final act of their lives. To observe people at such a stage haunts you as much as it does them, and made for a film that took a while to get out of my head. Aiden Quinn plays Charlie Wright, a billionaire financial genius whose empire has been exposed as nothing more than a pitiful ponzi scheme, right under his unwitting nose. He is in self imposed exile in Mexico, and soon the consequences rain down on him in the form of several different pursuers. A Mexican gangster (Andy Garcia) wants him, as well as a Russian (Elya Baskin) and his dodgy American representitive (Raymond J. Barry). The FBI has their sights on him as well, in the form of a weary looking Mario Van Peebles, sanctioned by the Director (Corbin Bernson). There’s also a trio of merceneries headed up by a dogged Luke Goss, Bokeem Woodbine and Gary Daniels who have been deployed south of the border to hunt him. It sounds like a bunch of commotion, but I found it to be a very reserved meditation on just how far people are willing to stand by their life choices when they see what’s become of the goals they had in mind when they made said choices in the first place. Quinn is the most understated, yet speaks the loudest as a man on the run from the world. Gina Gershon makes an emotional impact as a woman involved with Garcia, who is also great. South of the border intrigue. Ponderous introspect. A winning recipe.