In the days leading up to Charlie’s (Stephen Dorff) release from prison, he receives an encouraging letter from an old friend known as Buddha (Willem Dafoe). The letter contains a hidden message to kill a man named Ornay (Robert LaSardo) and so when Charlie gets out, he works to fulfill the Buddha’s request. Along the way he meets Florence (Michelle Monaghan), an adult film actress who quickly finds herself drawn to Charlie though he seems uncomfortable pursuing any sort of intimacy with her.
Unfortunately there’s not a lot to like about this film. Tonally, it’s pretty cool – reminiscent of a Film Noir. The acting is strong even if the characterization is not. And even though the film gets slow at times, it is paced well overall; telling its story in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s being dragged out too much.
Unfortunately, each of these good things about the film comes with a problem. Yes, the tone is interesting, but the entire film stinks of a twist ending coming. I had a twist in mind the whole time and the weird thing is that not only did that twist not happen, the film didn’t have much of an ending at all. So, it’s not that I was proven wrong by having a different twist happen, but rather was left confused by the rather abrupt ending the film actually has. So, I guess what’s going on with Charlie’s character is left up for debate, but that is really lazy writing to me. I think I’d prefer the awful twist ending I was dreading in my head to the non-ending we end up with here.
None of the characters are really well executed. Charlie is meek and unimposing, but with moments of rage that make him dangerous. The fact that he spends the entire movie reacting to other characters’ wants rather than having any of his own makes him pretty uninteresting though. Florence has virtually no character-defining action other than her constant want to sleep with Charlie, and her love of a particular red car. There are other bizarre inconsistencies in her character that feel like they were thrown in to make the film longer. One scene in a church stands out as particularly weird because Florence demonstrates this sudden random religious side that is not at all apparent in the rest of the film.
The best character is the Buddha, and Willem Dafoe does an excellent job of bringing the character to life. The huge problem is that he only has a few minutes of screen time over the course of the movie. Most of the film is focused on the Charlie/Florence relationship, and the Buddha is all but ignored. It’s a real shame and I’m not sure why they did the movie this way, but wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with the fact that Dorff and Monaghan were producers on the film, and thus couldn’t have any of their precious screen time edited out. That’s just a guess though.
No special features. Can’t recommend the Blu-ray over the regular DVD on this one because the visuals simply aren’t up to that caliber. Available now from RLJ Entertainment.