I picked up this film at a local movie store for about 2$ thinking it would be a mediocre cop movie (at that point not realizing what the title reffered to), but wow was I surprised when I watched it. This movie is rather a depressing movie about one man’s descent into a sad and depressing vacuum. And although the film does capture its protagonist very well (in big part due to Woody Harrelson’s performance), the film truly lacks anything likeable or captivating to make it watchable. The film also seems to waste some very big-name actors and actresses (Ice Cube, Steve Buscemi, and Robin Wright) on throw-away cameo characters or unexplored supporting characters.
Woody Harrelson however has plenty of screentime, but does not waste a single second and manages to put so much nuanced and discreet emotion into this intricate character. The viewer follows the character as he dives down a depressing hole and in the meantime they get a wonderful showcase of just how talented Woody Harrelson actually is. But Harrelson is the best as he interacts with his onscreen children, because not only do they pop onscreen (also in part to the great child actresses), but Harrelson captures such genuine emotions as he converses and interacts with his two beloved daughters. Sigourney Weaver plays the police captain– or something like that– who Woody Harrelson has to report to. But despite her abundance of lines and screentime, Weaver does not put a lot of character into the portrayal. There is a boring and mildly uncomfortable lack of emotion and cringe-bringing stiffness to her portrayal. Robin Wright has a brief role in the film, as Harrelson’s love-interest, but despite her serious attempt, her character lacks anything compelling and is eventually labeled a throw-away character.
Ned Beatty plays Harrelson’s corrupt partner-in-crime who works with Harrelson and uses him to get his dirty work done for him. Beatty is truly a great actor and this portrayal just helps prove this point a litte, because despite his miniscule role and his limited dialogue, Beatty creates an interesting power-dynamic between him and Harrelson. Ben Foster, Ice Cube and Steve Buscemi all play some form of law enforcement in one or two scenes (with Buscemi only appearing in one). And this really is a pity, because these three (maybe two, I still don’t know if I like Ben Foster) actors are truly great and deserve more than just 60 seconds of screentime. Also, on the cover it said Steve Buscemi, so I expect to see Steve Buscemi, so when I barely see Steve Buscemi, I’m upset. Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon also appear as Harrelson’s two lovers (and they’re sisters), and they are okay. There really is nothing to say about them, they’re performances are simple and straight-forward, they don’t lack screentime and they don’t hog screentime either. But the real showstoppers are Harrelson’s tow onscreen daughters who may be some of the greatest chil actors I’ve ever watched (they’re atleast high on the list). Played by Brie Larson (yeah, when she was young… well a child) and Samantha Boyarsky (I guess she appeared as a Day Care Kid in Bruce Almighty and otherwise this is her only role), these two characters are truly what drive Harrelson’s character. And the two actresses are so fantastic I’m willing to say that (other than Harrelson and maybe Beatty) they are the best actors in the film.
The screenplay of the movie is what it is. It captures Harrelson’s character very well and it is more than comfortable throwing him into a sticky situation, but other than throwing around with that one character, the screenplay does not do a whole lot. This movie truly serves more as a great showcase for Harrelson’s acting rather than an actual story to actually entertain or touch the viewer, and that does not provide a for a fun or appealing film experience. The movie also lacked any depth of supporting characters, it was very much just a one character show with an occasional appearance of some guy reciting lines. So suffice it to say that Harrelson’s alone scenes (or when he was with his daughters) were the only great scenes in the film. The whole premise of the film is also pretty unbearable with the movie following one man on a downwards spiral and a very non-satisfactory end. At least in Birdman, we got to see the main character try to end his life and then experience a beautifull poetic ending, but here we’re left off with nothing, just a weird feeling of depressive angst. The cinematography is also awkward and confused as the camera shakes uncomfortably through a couple of scenes with no real effect.
So if you want to see Steve Buscemi, you’re better off watching something else, because he really is not in this film. But Woody Harrelson is, and damnit is he wonderful and talented. But despite his powerful acting and well crafted character, the film lacks from the obvious necessity for other well crafted characters. The screenplay however is the true killer in this film, with no real satisfactory story and a rather depressing premise that provides no satisfaction.
Best Part- Woody Harrelson
Worst Part- The throw-away Steve Buscemi cameo (I’m really mad about it)