Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Dark Country (2009)

Director: Thomas Jane
Starring: Thomas Jane, Lauren German, Ron Perlman

“I love the Chinese.”
-Gina

NOTE TO THE READERS: Upon trying to capture the images in this movie to put in the review, the computer broke due to the movie's astounding ineptitude, and we could not recover them. Therefore, we have replaced them with other things instead. We apologize for the inconvenience. But it's not like you really need to see any pictures from this movie, anyway.

Actors are just people. At the end of the day, they’re just as fucked up as the rest of us, no more and no less. Just because they’re famous doesn’t really mean that they’re any different. It’s just that their insecurities, fears and eccentricities are portrayed for the world to see in vivid light. And good god, does actor Thomas Jane ever exemplify that. I mean, what kind of fucked up psychological issues do you have to have to make a movie like this? What could possibly justify this?

It’s called Dark Country, and it really is a spectacle. I can’t tell whether I should laugh at this or just get pissed off at it. It’s a vile, stupid beast of a film that doesn’t take its audience the least bit seriously, has no feel for coherence and doesn’t even have the common dignity to give us a twist that wasn’t totally fucking predictable. Like a vomitous, exorcised demon from inside David Lynch this movie comes hurtling at you, bashing you over the head with its hammy attempts at being ‘deep’ and ‘weird,’ and everything else pretentious and ridiculous they could think of. God, let’s just get this over with, this movie is like a really bad hemorrhoid.

We start off with some narration that sounds like something out of The Spirit if there were even more drugs involved: “Oh, God, you should’ve known. You don’t remember how it started, but you could’ve guessed how it was all gonna end…she was a dealer, right? Black Jack or, was it poker? Doesn’t really matter now, does it? It’s all over…and done with. You woke up with the prettiest girl you ever seen lying in your bed, cheap ring around her finger and a 50 dollar receipt from the little white chapel crumpled up on the floor. You don’t even know how to spell her name, but it doesn’t matter…you only know you love her, and it’s real, and you’d do anything for her. Sucker.”

That’s the first line. The first line is a monologue that’s like what would happen if you let Dark City be remade by a crack junkie. And that fucking movie was already pushing it, people. This is like they just completely threw all caution to the wind, said ‘fuck it’ and just put out whatever came to their mind first. And listen to the way he talks…it’s like he’s intentionally trying to be as cliché gritty film noir chain-smoker ex-cop as possible; it’s so over the top it’s hilarious. He sounds like he’s been smoking a whole cigarette factory.

We see Thomas Jane, whose career I think we can pretty much write off at this point, getting out of bed and shaving. Then he goes to seduce his newly married wife with the best breakfast he could find – an apple and a can of soda. Yeah, real romantic there, isn’t it? Why not just go full stop and order a Big Mac while you’re at it? Oh, and listen to that music; it’s like the movie’s trying to be a film noir, except it’s totally goofy. It’s like what you’d hear in a Looney Tunes short parodying a 1940s detective story.

So apparently these two got married in Las Vegas, because those usually turn out so well. He tells her some story about a girl he met on a train or something and how he lost her, acting like a total pussy. What does this have to do with the story? Why should we care? I don’t know, we have a horrible 1995 Paint graphic to show off as a title screen. I wish I could show you a picture of it here, but instead I’ll just show you a hot chick, since this movie was so hard for me to watch that I need some relief: 


Okay, so our two wonderful lead characters are driving along on a green-screen background…yes, they couldn’t even get the budget to rent out a fucking deserted desert road…when the wife starts pleasuring herself and trying to get him to have sex with her while they’re driving, even though they just slept together hours before and are going to do it again when they arrive at their destination. We go through a weird, weird sequence that’s like something out of a…no, it IS something out of an indie porn flick. She spends like five minutes rubbing herself and pulling his hand and moaning and…what am I supposed to gain from this? I’m really supposed to take this movie seriously after that? Try watching the scene where she pleasures herself with an ice cube and see if you can stop yourself from laughing.

Oh and apparently she says she’s an “old fashioned girl.” Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha! Yeah, right, and Mel Gibson is a picture of sanity.

So anyway, he speeds up to about a hundred miles an hour and almost hits a staggering passenger on the side of the road. It turns out to be a badly injured crash victim whose car is completely totaled right nearby, and they pick the guy up to take him to the hospital. The only problem is that the guy is a little strange. He talks cryptically, telling them they have no idea what they’re getting into. When they don’t listen to him and can’t figure out what the hell he’s on about, he jumps on Thomas Jane and attacks him, provoking Jane to hit him mercilessly with a rock until he dies. That’s really harsh.

Oh, and Thomas Jane is just horrid in this. I usually like his acting, even in more mediocre flicks like The Mist, but here he seems to have gotten some kind of acting-amnesia and forgotten how to do even the most basic kind of acting. He replaces subtlety, nuance and empathy with blank-faced anger and monotonous shouting.

Now Jane and his fiancée have to spend their honeymoon night burying a body. Doesn’t that sound more like the premise of a sequel to The Hangover or something? They then start to fight and argue more and stop at a rest stop to collect their thoughts, where they just…argue more. Jane realizes he left his watch out in the desert and has to go back and get it, even though I don’t know how the hell he would ever find one damn watch out in the miles and miles of Nevada desert. He says that his name is engraved on the watch…why would you do that? Oh, fuck it, I don’t care. If Jane had ever watched Pulp Fiction he’d know that going back to fetch a watch never leads to anything good, and indeed it doesn’t, as when he returns his wife is now missing without a trace.

Yep. She finally had enough of this movie. Because I guess a pedigree with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and Hostel II is still classier than Dark Country, so she just walked right off the set and didn’t come back. Why is she in trouble? Who is she running from? They just ran out of script and couldn’t answer those questions, so instead we’re just left with the rejected scraps from the Triangle drug-binge sessions…

This is much better than what you would have seen if I put images from the movie. Trust me.

So Jane runs into a cop played by Ron Perlman, who I’ve never felt sorrier for, and he tells him what’s going on. He of course has to leave out the bits about killing the guy, but his mad raving and ranting as he summarizes this film’s events somehow comes out to what I think is how he pitched this movie to the producers. Perlman gets him in his police car and takes him to “where the rest stop used to be 30 years ago.” Ooh, an over-used horror trope that has been done a thousand times! Good to see how low this movie set the bar finally put into the right light. And an ambiguous ending where Jane’s character crashes his car and then gets picked up by the past version of himself and his fiancée, setting the whole chain in motion all over again!

This movie sucks, this movie sucks, this movie sucks! I can’t think of a more annoying film that I’ve seen recently. It can’t decide whether it wants to be a film noir throwback or a surreal mind-bending thriller, and it can’t do either one of those with any kind of competency. With making these kinds of psychological flicks, you can’t just assume the audience will “get” it; you can’t just leave open spaces in the plot and try to tell us that it’s symbolism. Here’s a question for you, Thomas Jane and writer Tab Murphy: If Jane’s character was the bloody faced car crash victim the whole time, and he knew everything that happened, why the hell didn’t he just tell the past-Jane and his wife what was happening instead of talking in riddles?

Nothing? Pfft, why am I not surprised?

Look, people. There’s a difference between a film like Mulholland Drive where there’s an actual good story running underneath the weirdness, the free-flowing pace and the odd symbolism and metaphors, and this, which is hack-work and extremely lazy writing, substituting any kind of deeper meaning for a jumbled mess of plot. This movie is just the ass hairs of better flicks like Memento and Jacob’s Ladder. It’s a pitiful and woeful journey that I hope none of you have to undertake, ever. Fuck Dark Country.

P.S. 100th review!