Review Date: December 19, 2000
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Stephen Gaghan
Producers: Laura Bickford, Marshall Herskovitz, Ed Zwick
Benicio Del Toro
It successfully juggles several different stories at the same time, all of which interconnect to a certain extent, as most drug dealings do. The direction is especially impeccable in this film, with many yellow and blue filters helping us along the way, and Soderbergh gently easing each story into its own. I personally thought that all of the actors did a great job in the movie, with special nod-outs going out to Benicio Del Toro (who speaks Spanish in about 80% of his scenes), who will hopefully finally get the recognition that he deserves and Luis Guzman, who continues to shine as the one of the best comic relief characters in the movies. I also enjoyed the smaller performances given out by Michael Douglas' daughter in the film, played by Erika Christensen (squint your eyes, and she's Julia Stiles!), and the chief drug official in Tijuana, played by actor Tomas Milian, a very memorable character. Unfortunately, when you have as many stories going on at the same as this film does, there are bound to be a couple which don't penetrate your interest as much as the others, and this movie was no exception. I honestly didn't truly appreciate where Dennis Quaid's character was coming from in this film (or where he was going), but even more of a disappointment was Catherine Zeta-Jones' character, whose development in the film was just plain ridiculous. Without getting into too many specifics, let's just say that I just didn't "buy" into what her character eventually became.
I did however enjoy many of the fun cameos in the film, including Salma Hayek, Benjamin Bratt and many more (which I won't ruin here) and found the abrupt ending to be quite refreshing. Actually, I originally thought that the ending stunk, as I sat there waiting for, at least, another half hour of the film to go on. But the more I thought about it, the more I really liked the way that they concluded the movie. Not for your typical Joe America audience member, but for those who "get" the movie, there simply could be no other way to finish it. I was however bothered by a couple of small plot-holes in the film, like an undercover cop planting a bug in an office in front of several people without anyone noticing and a protected witness who in my humble opinion, simply does not get the proper protection needed. But nothing to take away from the film's generally taut pattern of story-telling. Kudos to Soderbergh and cast for creating a solid movie, which maintains your interest throughout its long two and a half hour runtime, despite it being about a subject that seems to have been covered a million times already. And kudos to Steven Bauer for finally making it back to the "show". Mannie...where you been, buddy!?!