City of Ghosts
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After getting caught up in an FBI fraud investigation, con man Jimmy (Dillon) runs to Cambodia in search of Marvin (Caan), his partner in crime and the man who taught him all he knows. Once there, the picture immediately gets blurry as he searches for Marvin and tries to figure out who he can trust.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Not really. Matt Dillon's directorial debut definitely deserves some credit for being unconventional and for looking really nice, but its snail's pace, convoluted storyline and all around uninteresting characters make for a couple of really long hours in front of the set wondering whether it's worth going on to find out what happens in the end. The first half of the movie basically consist of Dillon going around Cambodia, staying in a hotel owned by Gerard Depardieu and getting mysterious clues as to the whereabouts of his mentor Marvin. Not much else goes on and this search doesn't really have any type of pace whatsoever that would let you know whether or not he's actually getting closer. It's literally an hour of watching a guy lost in a foreign country and that's the overall feeling you get from this film while watching it: it's just there.
The sad part is that some great performances end up coming to naught. Stellan Skarsgård pulls off yet another gem as Kaspar, one of Caan's henchmen and Caan himself goes to bat once more in his expert portrayal of a sleazeball. Depardieu is fantastic as the equally sleazy hotel owner who doesn't take shit and who spends his days expelling drunken louts from his bar. Other characters, such as Natasha McElhone's are just wasted in small, meaningless roles. The biggest knock though is simply that the plot diverts too often into mysterious subplots but never enough to actually grab your interest. There's always a hint that something is about to happen and then nothing ever does. Very frustrating. The result is an extremely grueling movie to watch. And while you do preserve some appreciation for what Dillon was trying to do, you can't help but wish for those two hours back.
To sum it up, the positives on CITY OF GHOSTS are the nice photography, good performances and great music. The negatives, which outweigh the positives are the slow pace, a plot that twists and turns but never really gets anywhere, the overuse of the above-mentioned music that eventually becomes irritating and characters with little charisma. It's unfortunate that a nice concept for a story was squandered into a great-looking effort with very little in terms of actual entertainment.
The only feature of note is the feature-length audio commentary with Matt Dillon and co-writer Barry Gifford. It's a pretty average track and both men discuss the birth and evolution of the idea. Very standard stuff but Dillon should really get a cup of coffee the next time he does one of those things. I personally really like the guy as an actor, but he's not exactly the liveliest of men. There's also a quick promo for the soundtrack and although I usually refrain from discussing advertising features on DVD's, I really liked this film's soundtrack. The promo only lasts about 20 seconds or so but it's nice nonetheless.
It's nice to see Dillon tackling something different for his first shot at directing, but unfortunately there's very little that comes out of this movie in terms of entertainment. I really wouldn't be tempted to watch it again so a purchase would be out of the question and even a rental would be tough to recommend, unless you're high or something.... hey, wait a minute!! I think I just got it!!!