11 May 2009 | GeneSiskel
"The Limits of Control" is a post-modernist exercise. It doesn't tell a story. (There are apparently no stories worth telling on a planet defined by a singer as dirt.) Rather, the movie borrows the plot lines and dialogue of film noir, the preoccupations of French art criticism, and other semi-art cinema fare, and recombines them in a heavily ironic and lushly sensual setting, (1) to draw attention to itself and (2) to comment on dreams, art, and the making of art.
Does it take itself seriously? Not really. Is it fun to watch? Of course. Who wouldn't enjoy watching a reclining nude woman with a revolver try to get her man (who responds "never while I'm working")? A laconic buff control freak in service to wise guys methodically inspect, and then eat, the coded messages that arrive at his patio table in matchboxes? A series of go-betweens solemnly ask the central character, in various languages, "Do you speak Spanish?" before launching into their wild-eyed explications in English?
The only part of the movie I found disappointing was the ending, a paean to flights of imagination wrapped in a faux action film climax. Bill Murray is simply unconvincing as a bellicose bad guy and the resolution is all too neat. But until then the dreams are great, the cinematography is first-rate, and the acting is top-drawer.