6 March 2006 | rparham
Violence would be preferable to this
Wim Wender's The End of Violence is a rather disjointed and uninvolving piece of film-making. It wants to be a tale about how violence affects our lives and how, once exposed to it, we find ourselves fundamentally changed. It might actually succeed if it wasn't busy confusing the audience and boring them to death at the same time.
As the film opens, we are treated to a day in the life of Hollywood producer Mike Max (Bill Pullman), who is busy wheeling and dealing through multiple phones and computer connections, all the while ignoring his wife, Paige (Andie McDowell). While he is out during the day, he is kidnapped by two not quite bright hit men who are killed in a mysterious fashion and Mike Max manages to escape. He is found dazed by some Latino gardeners and Mike decides that he needs to hide from his old life to protect himself while discovering that violence, which he has peddled in action movies, is a bad thing. Meanwhile, Paige has taken over her husbands company in his absence and developed a relationship with a recording artist named Six (K. Todd Freeman) who provides the love she was lacking in her relationship with Mike. Also meanwhile, technical whiz Ray Bering (Gabriel Byrne) is busy putting the finishing touches on a high-tech surveillance system that the government hopes to use to bring violence in the city under control. However, Ray begins to suspect that the system is possibly being used for nefarious purposes and is trying to get someone to listen to him. And yet elsewhere still, stuntwoman turned actress Cat (Traci Lind) is getting her big acting break in Mike's latest film, and she finds herself somewhat smitten with detective Dean Brock (Loren Dean) who is investigating the disappearance of Mike.
As you can probably tell from the above paragraph, The End of Violence has a lot going on. The problem is that little of it is compelling and because the film is busy juggling so many plot threads at the same time, several of them seem like afterthoughts. The subplot featuring Paige's involvement with Six, for instance, has absolutely no emotional resonance for the audience because we barely know these people. The film also takes a lot of side trips to inexplicable scenes where people gather at performance art sessions to get some bigger message across, I guess, but they just end up being pointless and drawing the film out even more.
Wenders manages to suck the life out of most of the scenes in the film. The acting is uniformly wooden and unconvincing, the characters are little more than bodies going through the motions, and the plot is half-explained and developed. Take the plot thread of Ray trying to discover the truth about the surveillance system. It is revealed eventually that he has actually already been in contact with Mike about it with the hopes of revealing the system to the public, but the film has so many pieces moving around that it takes forever to make the connection between those two characters.
The film also features dreaded voice-over monologues that are just silly and pretentious. The anti-violence message, what there is of it, is also heavy-handed, to say the least. In one scene, Six speaks to Mike on the phone and gives us a long explanation about why violence is good and people revel in it. You can practically see Wenders on his soapbox while this scene is going on.
I suppose this movie is supposed to be a thriller to some degree, but there is little that is thrilling about The End of Violence. It is a monotonous bore of a film that comes to a rather abrupt ending without really dealing with all of the issues it seems to want to explore. Instead of an end of violence, I'll take an end to this particular mess.