Contact (1997)

Twenty years ago this film was frequently given much praise by the pretentious film critics of the day, and mocked by people who knew better. In many ways, Robert Zemeckis’ Contact was and still remains an example of everything that is pompous and awful about Hollywood since the 1990’s. Bloated production budgets (this was made for $90 million), ludicrous, half-baked plots that are stretched out beyond reason, palliative moralising, and a mushy style of writing that oozes Oscar bait, and that’s basically what Contact was.

The story, longwinded as it was, revolves around Dr. Ellie Arroway, a woman who has been fascinated by science and communication since childhood, and now works for the SETI program at an observatory in Puerto Rico, listening to radio emissions hoping to find signs of intelligent life in outer space. She eventually gains funding from a secretive billionaire to continue her work in New Mexico, but her work falls under tight scrutiny from the government, and the world at large her discovery is broadcast around the world.

You would think this was a decent enough subject, but the film itself is boring. The pace is intolerably slow as the film wades through one snooze-fest of a scene after another, and the ending isn’t even worth it. We all know the raw deal we got from the film. A lot of hype is built up over the protagonist finding an alien, you wait for two and a half hours and then you find out that the “alien” is just her father, or rather some mysterious being taking her father’s form. It’s clearly supposed to be a schmaltzy sort of ending, and it’s just awful.

Another theme you’ll notice throughout the film is the writers’ attempts to shoehorn a debate between science and faith. The director of the film once claimed that the film was intended to deliver the message that science and religion can co-exist, but that’s not the message I got. In fact, if the film was trying to have a debate, it seems as if they’ve rigged it in favour of the science side of the debate. In the world of this film, all scientists are noble and righteous fellows, and there are few openly Christian characters who aren’t ignorant science-deniers, which is unsurprising considering that by 1997 it had become fashionable to demonise religious people. In that sense, the film isn’t so much a celebration of science, as much as it is a glorification of scientism.

The acting is all well and good, but the characters are terrible. I find it impossible to relate to any of the characters, especially not the film’s right-on “IFL Science” protagonist Ellie Arroway. Her whole story centred around how she “has” to get her way because it’s important to her, and anyone who doesn’t give her what she wants doesn’t care about science. At least this is what I get from her general tone. The other characters aren’t too bad, and I should at least give some praise to the late John Hurt’s character, the billionaire S.R. Hadden, whose performance was befitting of his enigmatic character.

I suppose the film’s main strength was in its special effects, which would explain the $90 million budget. But I think that’s one of the film’s fundamental problems, that’s mainly special effects and virtually little substance. The film as a whole was a bad attempt at “philosophical” sci-fi, and it was barely entertaining. What’s really sad is that the people who worked on the film are capable of better. I find it baffling how Robert Zemeckis went from Back to the Future to a film with all the hallmarks of a lazy, Spielbergian snooze-fest, and yet here it is. A film that mainly got respect from the snooty establishment film critics for being a half-assed progressive think piece disguised as a movie, but I bet it ended up being a film that most people only watched once, which I’d understand because the film isn’t even that good. Twenty years on, it’s time we accepted the reality that Contact was never a good film.

  • Score: 44%
  • Grade: E

Thief (1981)

I’ve got to be honest, I had heard of Michael Mann’s film through its composer, the electronic band Tangerine Dream, though in all fairness, this was quite a gem of a film. Often billed as a neo-noir film, it is based on the writings of a real-life jewel thief, who wrote “The Home Invaders” (the book on which the film is based) under the name of Frank Hohimer (incidentally, the protagonist of the film is also called Frank). Whether this makes the film necessarily realistic is up for debate, but there is no denying that this is a fine quality film that, in my opinion, has aged very well. In terms of its direction in particular, it’s a hardboiled crime thriller with a fine touch of sophistication.

The story centres around a professional safecracker and jewel thief named Frank, who agrees to do one last job so that he can have enough money to start a normal family life with his new girlfriend Jessie. But in order to do so, he has to work with a greedy mafia boss named Leo, who offers to make him a millionaire within four months. After this job he plans to retire from criminal life, but he finds himself in debt to and being ripped off by Leo, who is determined not to let Frank out of his hands.

Some viewers might be a little put off but its slow pacing, but for two hours it’s actually a pretty well-paced film, with a distinctly chilled character. Michael Mann’s Thief isn’t exactly your standard heist film, as it has none of the fake tension and vestigial string orchestras that normally accompanies the stock-in-trade films of genre. Every part of the story is certainly convincing enough for me, and I think that is due mainly to the merits of Michael Mann’s directorial ability, which is impressive considering this was his debut feature film.

Arguably one of the best parts about the film is the much-lauded performance of lead actor James Caan, who struts his character around with a sense of cool that defies explanation. The rest of the main cast performed also well, with Tuesday Weld as the girl who is slowly involved in Frank’s life, Robert Prosky as the cold, unscrupulous Leo, and a range of support characters that shine through in their own way.

Above all else, what stands out is the film’s sense of style. The film is slick, dark and realistic in tone, in contrast to many heist films before it. In fact, I’d say it’s something of a precursor to the kind of lengthy yet stylish crime films we would see later in the 1980’s and 1990’s. At the core of the film’s style was the then-cutting-edge electronic stylings of Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack, with its pulsating synth lines. And then of course there’s the action. It has been said that this film represents a transition from the character-based crime drama of the 1970’s to the flashy action-oriented cop films of the 1980’s, but I don’t really see that. I do however appreciate the subtlety that is Thief’s action scenes, which are fairly infrequent, but well-executed.

By no means is Thief a perfect masterpiece, but I’d say it’s an underrated film that in my opinion doesn’t get enough attention, which is a shame because it’s quickly become perhaps one of my favourite crime films so far. I feel like there ought to be more films like this one. Hollywood could definitely use some actually good quality films in its dying years.

  • Score: 83%
  • Grade: B

2LDK (2003)

A few years ago I got the chance to see a film called Aragami. Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, it was an experimental film which only involved two actors, each of whom fought each other to the death for over an hour, and it was an amazing film. I learned that Aragami was made as part of the Duel Project, a challenge issued to two directors by producer Shinya Kawai to see who could make the best film with only two principal actors in a single setting in the span of one week. This film is director Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s response to that challenge, though while this was certainly an ambitious project, it wasn’t as good as Aragami was.

The film’s plot revolves around two actresses, Nozomi and Rana, who share an apartment in Tokyo. They have auditioned for the same role in a movie, and only one of them can land the role. As they wait through the night to find out which one of them got the part, they wind up tormenting each other until they reach breaking point, and then they battle each other to the death.

I liked the idea of the story, but my main issue was with the pacing and the lack of action in the plot. For the first quarter of the film the two characters do nothing but talk, though as the film progresses tensions rise until they reach boiling point. This slow boil approach isn’t too bad, but there are aspects of the film that don’t make sense. For instance, there are a few instances where one of the characters dies, and in the next scene comes back to life. That said, however, I think the conversation scenes were somewhat interesting, in that they flesh out the characters quite well.

The two actresses deliver a rather neat performance. The characters are still rather strange though, but they successfully convey a sort of aggressive rivalry between them, which eventually turns into a creepy relationship between the two, and they really let loose when they’ve reached the inevitable boiling point, and pointing their rage in unexpected directions. In find that their interactions more or less resemble the twisted, next logical step up from an old slapstick comedy show, though here it’s not supposed to be comedic, so it has a decidedly different effect

The atmosphere is fairly sober, or at least it gets this way overtime. The film certainly starts with a light tone that gets more and more grim until the end. More importantly, the fight choreography is convincingly raw, with the two main characters guided only by adrenalin. I was half expecting the two girls to hate each other as soon as they’re eyes locked together, and then they fought each other for an hour with knives or swords. The direction Tsutsumi went with wasn’t a bad one, though it does leave you wondering about a number of questions that remain unanswered. If the Duel Project was a challenge to see which of two directors could make the best film with limited conditions, I’d say Ryuhei Kitamura was definitely the winner.

  • Score: 63%
  • Grade: C

Jubilee (1978)

Journeying down the rabbit hole of avant-garde cinema can be as rewarding as it is confusing. Rewarding in the sense that you get to see all sorts of weirdness unfold on screen, and confusing in the sense that there’s no guarantee that you’ll have any grasp on what’s going on. That’s the bizarre state of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, a punk-themed art film that lurches from meaninglessness to meaning at no consistent rate.

What is it about? I’m amazed I even know at this point! But seriously, the film starts off with a scene with Queen Elizabeth I and a man named John Dee, who are transported by an angel named Ariel into a desolate Britain where there is apparently no law, no work, no point to living. In that vision of the future, there live a group of nihilistic punks who live by their own interpretation of history, morality, and desire, and sometimes murder people for no given reason.

It’s worth noting that throughout the whole film, the queen has barely any interaction with the world or its characters. That would have given the film some structure, and apparently that’s not what Mr. Jarman had intended. The film’s story, if it has one, is essentially 100 minutes of pure, empty anarchy. There’s no real thread that binds the scenes together, and that’s a terrible shame because it seems as if there could have been a good story. The film itself explores many themes, but its central theme is abject chaos, and I think that this could have been explored in a much better way than it had been. That said, one might be able to argue that the film itself is an accurate representation of the kind of chaos it intended to show.

Equally insane is the film’s cast of characters. When they’re not shouting curse-laden rants about whatever they feel like at the time, they’re having sex and murdering people for no real reason. The acting isn’t terribly bad. In fact, the actors play their parts well enough that they can convince you of the characters’ insanity. To a certain extent, I liked the way the characters were portrayed because they were raw personalities, but they were hampered by their aimlessness in the plot. Amyl Nitrate was perhaps my favourite character because I think she had the most potential, and despite having a decent performer playing her, even she suffers from the same problem.

There are some positives though. For one, the film captures the punk style quite accurately, even though it misrepresents the punk scene generally. On another note, the film doesn’t really represent punk at all, but rather should be taken as a metaphor for the pessimism of the time in which it was made. If the film accomplishes anything, it’s that it unfailingly depicts the logical conclusion of what a nihilistic outlook on life can possibly lead to, at least without any sort of intervention. Perhaps that’s about all the sense I can make out of a film like this. It’s not really bad at all, but despite some delightfully quirky moments, it makes so little sense that it may only appeal to the nerdiest film enthusiasts, or film studies students.

  • Score: 62%
  • Grade: C

Uncle Buck (1989)

uncle_buckTaking a brief detour from the spate of weird and wonderful films I’ve been curating all summer long, I think it’s time I turned my attention to a more familiar film, in this case that would be the much-beloved Uncle Buck. Given the fact that I dislike John Hughes, I rarely say anything positive about his filmography, and this film would perhaps be one of those rare exceptions. Perhaps it’s down to me being so familiar with it, but I have a certain appreciation for Uncle Buck, mainly because it was a sincerely humorous film with plenty of heart and character.

Of course, I think we’re all familiar with the premise. John Candy plays an unemployed slob who drives an old, broken-down vehicle and makes a living betting on rigged horse races, and he’s asked by his middle-class brother to look after his children. Buck proves to be more of a competent legal guardian than he looks, entertaining the children and doing his best to earn the respect of the eldest daughter.

I always thought the film had good writers behind it, but I think the writing didn’t truly grow on me until some years later. To date, I’ve seen this four times, and believe it or not, this family-oriented comedy is still fresh. I am still a little disappointed that there’s no scene in the whole film that plays out like the poster. That would be quite a sight indeed. I think part of why Uncle Buck enjoyed better writing than other John Hughes films is that unlike most of his films, Uncle Buck revolves around the family rather than the kind of narcissistic teen drama that makes up the bulk of Hughes’ reputation.

Of course, it’s very easy for one particular character to steal the show, and in this case that’s the eponymous Uncle Buck. For the most obvious reasons he’s the highlight of the film. He may be irresponsible, and he may be a bit crass at times, but when he wants to be, he’s a very entertaining character. This film would be incredibly bland and typical if the character it was named after weren’t incredibly funny. The acting is also really good, with the main cast delivering some convincing performances from left and right, and the characters that matter are a joy to watch. I should also mention Jean Louisa Kelly’s performance as Tia, the Russell’s eldest daughter. At first, she came across as a typically bratty and pessimistic teenage caricature, but later on she develops to the extent where you can see why she acts the way she does, and she comes out a better character by the end of it.

The film’s production values are also worth mentioning. Maybe it’s just that I have a thing for the film’s autumn aesthetic (this being the film’s setting), but I thought it looked really good, and the soundtrack was good as well, but that doesn’t matter compared to whether it was funny, and thankfully it was. Whatever my reasons, Uncle Buck is a movie that I consistently enjoy whenever I happen to watch it. Whatever you thought of the film’s director, I think most of us can agree that this film, with its affable lead actor and rock solid writing, Uncle Buck remains an enjoyable family comedy for the ages.

  • Score: 84%
  • Grade: B

Basquiat (1996)

BasquiatmovieposterI discovered this film almost by accident, in another case of me stumbling upon a film that, perhaps not a gem, was a good film that took on genuinely interesting subject matter, namely the trappings of the art world from the view of an artist, as he quests for fame and lives through what it is really like. Of course, I say this as an art student, and I very much doubt that anyone not interested in art would be interested in this film.

The film is a biopic based on the life of Jean-Michael Basquiat, a neo-expressionist painter from Brooklyn, New York who emerged from the American “punk” scene to the international art gallery circuit, and quickly became one of the most celebrated artists of the 1980’s, until his death in August 1988. The film chronicles a fictionalised account of his discovery by Andy Warhol, his subsequent rise to fame, and the price he pays for it.

A number of fictional characters were added to the film, perhaps to create a more dramatic and possibly more relatable film. For instance, there’s a character called Gina Cardinale, who, because the film is biographical in nature, I assumed was a real person, but upon googling the name, I discovered that she was basically a character created so that the fictionalised Basquiat could have a lover who sticks by him. The film also has the honour of being the first feature film about a painter that was made by a painter (that would be director Julian Schnabel), and he created a character based on himself, so as to insert himself into the film.

The film sometimes comes across as a glamourising portrayal of the art gallery scene, but it certainly makes for an engaging drama, thanks mainly to its characters. In addition to looking the part, Jeffrey Wright delivers a good performance as Jean-Michael Basquiat, injecting a sense of humanity into his character. It showed a man who was neither a completely good man (he certainly took pleasure in painting over his girlfriend’s clothes) nor a completely bad man, and was concerned with his bottom line, which would be fame.

The characters work quite well, but the film is perhaps best known for David Bowie’s role as Andy Warhol. Bowie’s brilliant character acting succeeds yet again, as he delivers a nuanced portrayal of an artist often stereotyped as a pretentious phony. I’m not entirely surprised, since Bowie personally knew Andy Warhol (he even wrote a song about him for his fourth album). He brought a lot of depth to the character he was playing, and he even looked like a very good Warhol impressionist. His portrayal of Warhol adds a lot to the fictionalised Warhol, and I dare say his version of Warhol is more likable.

Thankfully, the man at the directorial helm, Julian Schnabel, is an artist himself, and his knowledge of art world helps him bring the film to life. The film visually coneys the kind of environment that Jean-Michael Basquiat worked in, and this is also helped by the film’s choice of music, which I felt worked in a number of ways. Because Basquiat’s estate refused to let him use the late artist’s original works, Schnabel himself, along with his studio assistant, created a number of paintings in the style of Basquiat, and I feel this adds another layer of authenticity to it, or about as close as they could get.

Though it comes across as the heavily fictionalised kind of biopic, it was definitely an entertaining film, and a uniquely compelling parable of an artist who propelled himself into fame as quickly as he could and paid the price for it.

  • Score: 73%
  • Grade: C

Rodrigo D: No Future (1990)

Rodrigo_D-_no_futuroAt some point, I got the impression that what Gypsy 83 was for the goth scene, Rodrigo D seems to be for the punk and metal scene. In retrospect, however, the two are not alike. As frenetic as it tends to be, I do laud its intention. Namely, I felt the film was an earnest drama of a youth growing up in the bottom rung of society, and doing what he can to follow a dream, though I think the producers squandered the chance to make a truly compelling film.

From what I can tell, the film’s story revolves around the eponymous Rodrigo, a poor and troubled teenager living in Medellín, Colombia who wants to be a drummer in a punk band. Even though his musical ability is not the best, he can identify with the punks. Alienated, angry and destructive, he sees the music as the only way he can drive the despair out of his mind.

That’s basically the gist of what the film is about, and keep in mind, the film had no subtitles, not even if you find it on YouTube. Unfortunately this makes it one of those films where the language barrier makes it difficult to get into the film. That said, this past summer I’ve seen a number of films that were seemingly handicapped by a language barrier, but they were all just fine for the most part. With this film, I think the frenetic pace was more of a problem, and the fact that it was generally noisy and dim. On the whole, the story plays out like a coming of age film with street kids wandering and rampaging in an empty place. Interesting maybe, but it was somewhat aimless in its approach.

As for the characters, I think there was sincerity in the characters, especially in the main character, even though I can’t exactly understand any of them. To be honest, I wasn’t overly interested in them, and couldn’t see myself emotionally invested in them, but the performances weren’t bad. With the characters, I think the biggest strength is that the film presented them as if they were real people, fitting the film’s pseudo-documentary approach. In a sense, the characterisation is pretty chaotic, and I guess that fits the film.

I don’t know if this is true of the original film, but when I watched it, it seemed to look as if it was a low-quality VHS. Some of the scenes were so dark that it was quite hard to make out what was actually going on in those scenes. I do admire the realistic nature of the setting, as it conveyed the desperation of the kind of world the street punks inhabited, accurately presenting a poor neighbourhood in a third-world country. The choice of music wasn’t exactly my taste, but I do feel that it works well enough for the film.

Though I found the film wanting, due to its incoherent direction and messy production, I found it to be decently interesting film. It has its flaws, but at least it was sincere in its approach.

  • Score: 60%
  • Grade: C

Gypsy 83 (2001)

Poster-gypsy-83I had heard of this film while I was searching high and low for films that explore or at least purport to represent the goth subculture, and this independent coming-of-age drama certainly had a lot of potential. Of course, I retained my scepticism towards the film. After all, from my experience, goths are rarely represented well in the media (most films and TV shows that I know feature goth characters don’t even write them as anything close to normal people), and it turns out that Gypsy 83, for all its alternative posturing, is merely an indie coming-of-age drama with gothic window dressing.

The film revolves around 25-year-old Gypsy Vale, a moody young woman who works at a drive-through photo processing centre (remember when you had to get take your camera to get photos developed?) with a driving obsession with Stevie Nicks. She and her flamboyant goth friend Clive Webb go on a journey from their home in Sandusky, Ohio to New York City to attend the “Night of a Thousand Stevies”, a tribute event in which any Stevie Nicks imitator is allowed to take the stage. Along the way, they work though their issues with identity, abandonment, and come to terms with how they are.

Personally I don’t know why the writers felt that Stevie Nicks was the best choice of a plot device for a movie about goth culture. I’ve looked at a few goth forums, and this subject matter has been put up for debate, but the consensus is that she any has vague connections with the movement. Anyway, the story itself reads like an angsty teen drama, and it gives off the impression that the film’s goth characters live in a state of constant emotional adolescence, which is simply wrong. It appears Todd Stephens (the director) thinks being goth is all about melodrama, and the end result seems like a mixture of teen drama and gay romance, with a particularly unvarnished look at the latter.

As goths, the main characters don’t exactly convince me (though Kett Turton’s character definitely looks the part), but as outsiders in general, the two have very good chemistry. Sure, they can be a bit too melodramatic, but I don’t doubt the sincerity with which their enduring friendship is depicted. The other characters, meanwhile, don’t do very well, and one of the worst is an Amish man who hitches a ride with the main character just to cheat on his wife, though I personally don’t think he’s worse than the film’s frat boys (a typical plot device in films like these).

The film looks kind of like a made-for-TV film, but with slightly better production values. One thing that should be of note is that the film used a number of songs by goth artists/bands, from more obscure bands like Claire Voyant and Mechanical Cabaret, to Bauhaus and The Cure, the famous pioneers of gothic rock. One thing that continues to elude me is why they didn’t even consider using music from Christian Death, the legendary deathrock band that basically established the goth scene in America, so even mentioning them would have made the film more believable as a goth film. Instead, the script names a bunch of fictional bands, and while I like the music they used, they probably could have picked a better selection.

Overall, while it is flawed and hard to take seriously, and even though the goth characters were pretty stereotypical, I did kind of enjoy the film, and for better or worse, it’s certainly an unconventional take on a very familiar genre.

  • Score: 67%
  • Grade: C

Little Buddha (1993)

littlebuddhaLittle Buddha seems like the kind of film that was meant to capitalise on America’s infatuation with East Asian culture, particularly Buddhism, which I suspect was becoming insanely trendy for liberals during the 1990’s. That aside, the film itself seems to have been intended as an epic spiritual journey, and though I think it’s more for believers than any other demographic, I still find myself fascinated and somewhat enthralled by the film’s lofty vision.

The story is essentially split into two story arcs that eventually come together. One is the story of a group of monks travelling in search of a little boy from Seattle who they believe to be the reincarnation of a great Buddhist teacher named Lama Dorje, and the other is a rather religious retelling of the story of Siddhartha Guatama Buddha, and his quest for enlightenment.

The story sort of comes across as a naive parable of spirituality, or more or less the kind Hollywood liberals liked to dabble in back in the day. I found the idea that of a little boy being the reincarnation of a Buddhist Lama to be rather ridiculous, and serving only the purpose of making an American (let alone from Seattle of all places) the centre of the plot, and it really seems to make this film a relic of a rather silly point in history. By contrast, the re-enactment of the story of the Buddha may well have been the best part of the movie, mainly because it was told in a very compelling way, and trust me, you don’t have to be religious in order to appreciate the way they’ve faithfully recreated the story of Buddha.

The acting throughout the film is quite good, and is best in the scenes with the Buddha. Keanu Reeves is a surprisingly good fit for the role. Aside from looking the part, he delivers a stand-out performance that, believe it or not, suits the role quite well, and it’s definitely a big leap from Bill and Ted. All the characters performed well in this film, even Alex Wiesendanger, the young boy who’s supposed to be the lead character, back when such starry-eyed child characters were still universally endearing (nowadays, they’re often more annoying, especially in family films).

The film also sported very good production values for the time, and took a rather interesting approach in terms of direction. Most of the scenes set in America are deliberately given a sober blue-grey lighting, while most of the scenes set in Asia (including the story of Buddha and the flight to Bhutan) are given a lush red-orange colour scheme. I think this is intended to present two different worlds in two different lights, though I think it indicates a bit of a bias in favour of Eastern spirituality. I don’t particularly mind though, because I think it gave the film a unique visual identity.

Overall, with nice characters, an unbelievable yet consistently interesting premise, and a compelling narrative and atmosphere, this, in my opinion, is a very underrated film, and it’s certainly one of those films where seeing is believing.

  • Score: 75%
  • Grade: B

Lost Highway (1997)

Lost-Higway-01For some reason, I’ve developed a bit of a taste for weird and unusual films, so I naturally came across a film by David Lynch called “Lost Highway”. I previously saw another of his films, Blue Velvet, which I enjoyed quite thoroughly. Naturally, I thought that this film would be just as scintillating, but I found the film to be somewhat wanting, mainly because of its overly slow pace.

The film’s story appears to be split into two. At first, the film focuses on a jazz musician who is worried that his wife Renée is having an affair, only to find himself accused of murdering her. Then, in a parallel story, a young mechanic is seduced by a gangster’s mistress. The two stories are linked by the presence of a mysterious man, and the fact that both women may be the same.

At first, it won’t seem as if the two stories are essentially the same. If anything, it seemed as if it as all a single story, which it kind of is, but it seems to me like David Lynch was just in the mood for mindfuckery for its own sake. Seriously, parts of the film don’t make any sense, especially the final act. The film also suffers from such a slow start that for the first 15 minutes, it seems as if nothing was actually happening. If you ask me, the story didn’t start to get interesting until we enter the parallel story.

I kind of think that Lost Highway is thematically similar to Blue Velvet. Both of them relish in a kind of voyeuristic sexuality, but in this film, the protagonist is presented with two different world – the horror of having jealous thoughts swimming in your mind until you find your wife dead and thinking you might have killed her, and the wonder of a woman taking you into her world, and wanting you to help her escape it. Of course, there’s also the other dimension, where the aforementioned woman leaves you twisting in the wind, and you find out what’s really happening.

The acting, meanwhile, was very good. Patricia Arquette, who plays the two women who are in fact the same woman, manages to play both roles with subtlety, with a convincing an ably evocative performance. Robert Loggia, in my opinion, was a fine choice to play the gangster Mr. Eddy (later revealed to be an amateur porn producer named Dick Laurent), and he delivers a very forward and sharp performance that perhaps befitted his character. I must wonder how things might have gone if he had secured his desired role in Blue Velvet. Robert Blake, meanwhile, delivers a suitably creepy performance as the mystery men, and even though his character still didn’t make sense in the end, at least he can convey his character well.

This is the kind of film that succeeds more in terms of style than in terms of substance. High-quality production values aside, the film also has an amazing musical score composed of a number of different styles of music (the film opens with David Bowie’s splendid “I’m Deranged”). I also like the the fact that they at least used the highway to bookend the film (appearing in the title and credits sequence), because I honestly thought the title was making no sense. Despite its flaws, however, I thought this was at least an interesting film because of its merits, though I remain disappointed overall.

  • Score: 66%
  • Grade: C