13 April 2004 | bob the moo
An emotionally and morally clichéd script wastes good actors and good direction
It has been five years since Freddie and Mary's young daughter was killed by a drunk driver and they have both been dealing with it in their own ways. Mary has moved on with a new husband and her other children, while Freddie has collapsed in on himself with a glut of drinks and strippers. However now that the killer, John Booth, has been released Freddie has focus and aims to kill him in revenge. However nothing is that simple.
Sean Penn, Jack Nicholson and David Morse are pretty much going to be worth a look as they are all pretty intense actors when given the material to work with. In this film Penn is the writer and director and, unfortunately, he is not as good as writing as he is the other facets of his job. Here the film is pretty good but has one massive problem that it cannot get over - the script. The film is based on clichés that you will have seen before. This itself is not a problem as, although the characters are familiar, it's what you do with them that counts - not their basic descriptions.
However the film doesn't actually do much with these basic characters and, what it does, is confused and clichéd as much as the basics are! The `message' of the film will be different for everyone so I won't go into that but suffice to say that the characters are never really explained and it is impossible to really feel for any of them. They drift aimlessly for an hour or so just `feeling' in a story that borders on the dull, before something happens that has any meaning - and even then you could see it coming. The script wants to be deep and meaningful, and it appears to have fooled several people on this site, but really it is hollow and really lacking in anything close to engagement.
It is even more tragic when you see the potential that the film had. As director, Penn does pretty well with good atmosphere and style. Likewise the cast could have been great but are mostly left to aimlessly drift with a script they can't work with. You can tell Penn is an actor by the way he seems to have been content to let the actor's `explore the space' or, in my terms, do what they want. Morse is a good actor but here he is lumbered with a man who has done all his suffering off camera resulting in him being a bland character with nothing left to explore in front of us. Huston is given nothing of value to do and the inclusion of Robin Wright Penn can surely be nothing but nepotism.
Overall there is a good film in here somewhere, but this is not it. The big names gather around a script that eventually lets them down by being far too dull and simplistic (and confused at the same time!) and never really engages.