Thereís a certain risk in every vanity project of a writer/director. Here Robert Duvall takes a gamble and, Iím sorry to say, doesnít quite cut it. I couldnít agree more that heís a fantastic actor and one who has been so for the length and breadth of his long career, but here his self-penned role has nowhere to go.
He plays an ageing assassin finally seeing the appeal of having a family. His new partner has a nine-year-old daughter he is crazy about and he has retooled his life to include her as much as possible. Unfortunately, however, when youíre an assassin, it can be hard to take her to Daddy Daughter Day at the plant.
When he receives instruction to take a job in South America, he frets he wonít be back in time for her birthday party and this occurs when his target is wounded and wonít be in place for another three weeks. So, whatís a fella to do to with his time? His passion is dancing and he starts learning about the tango from an exquisite beauty who is especially adept. In the meantime he plans his hit and sleeps with hookers that he insists call him Daddy.
Being a professional killer, he is worried about someone setting him up and this comes to pass in the days nearer the hit, until before long heís in deep shit just trying to keep his arse out of jail, let alone get home to his new family.
This is first and foremost a character study but, unfortunately, the longer this character is on screen, the less and less we like him. Heís a grizzled and grouchy old bastard who kills people, so whatís to like? The relationship he forges with the dancer is also odd. It doesnít really go far and, for a relatively unattractive man, she seems a little bit too keen to hang out with him. Then thereís the dancing itself, which is most definitely the highlight of this film, but it just doesnít seem to fit in with the ugly world of organised crime. Even being used as a contrasting theme it doesnít work as well as it is obviously intended to. Plus, the story doesnít resolve itself by filmís end. There are multiple untied loops still hanging out of the storyline on all sides, which just lets us, the viewers, down. When the credits rolled here it was a surprise, even though I was frequently checking how long this had to go in the last 40 minutes. Perhaps the surprise lay in the fact nothing had been resolved?
To his credit, Duvall does create some fairly nice tension as his character is attempting to escape the South American continent and get home, but it isnít really enough to save this over-indulgent and ordinary film from itself and its narcissism.
Visually the film looks okay, although for a film shot in 2003 it should look better. There are occasional black and white specks in the form of film artefacts and shadow detail is moderate, but not great. Sometimes the shadows get terminally murky, but the blacks canít keep up and are more often a deeper grey. The rest of the colour palette is okay and even, with the screen ratio of 1.85:1 plus enhancement not making full use of its size. There are also outdated moments of stock footage in the opening moments of the film in which we still see the World Trade Centre towers standing tall. Perhaps this is setting the film pre-September 11? But no, thereís no mention of the year or date within or this being a period piece, and the airport security is quite high in the airport scenes, so I say poor form.
Audio-wise the score by Luis Bacalov is about the most interesting part of this film. This does well to skip between dance genres and action scenes without missing a beat. The surrounds get a working in the musical range from this Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, but thatís about all. The subwoofer only supports the music in essence and doesnít get overworked by a long chalk. Dialogue is long-winded and says nothing, even if it is delivered quite clearly. Luciana Pedraza is introduced in this film as Duvallís dance interest in South America and she has a strangely compelling voice that is partially masculine yet all feminine and very interesting to listen to.
Accompanying this film is the original theatrical trailer in which we get a much more action packed movie than the film we are delivered. If you hire this film, donít watch the trailer first due to spoilers but, ironically, you could save a lot of time by doing so as it is in essence a better version.
As a rental I recommend skipping this one unless you are after a slow-winding dissection of dancing and killing people. I thought it entirely too long and lazy and when finally getting near a climax, doesnít deliver anything remotely near the kind of answers we deserve having sat through the whole 109 minutes of the film.
Skip this one on your pursuit of a decent rental.