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David Cronenberg and Robert Pattinson team up for this ultra-violent near-future trip through Manhattan, following a 28-year-old billionaire whose world breaks apart over a single day. Based on the novel by Don DeLillo.
While being chauffeured to a haircut, Eric Parker (Pattinson) witnesses the gradual demise of his empire when a bet on a heavy exchange rate goes against him. At the same time, a chaotic commotion ripples through the streets of New York. Parker's paranoia reaches an apex when he discovers he's the target of an assassination.
- David Cronenberg (based on the novel by Don DeLillo)
Rating: R16 contains violence and sex scenes
France, Canada, Portugal, Italy
David Cronenberg has long considered “unfilmable” novels a challenge rather than a warning – see Naked Lunch, Crash, Spider. But the impossibility is often not filming the material; it’s dramatising it.
So it proves in this confoundingly slow vehicle for Dom DeLillo’s heady prose. Pattison plays Eric Packer, a tycoon riding his stretch limo across town as his fortunes plummet, anti-capitalism riots swell and Manhattan grinds to a halt around him. Along the way he’s interrupted by sexual liaisons with employee Juliette Binoche, awkward meals with trophy wife Sarah Gadon and, most memorably, a rectal examination from his doctor. But none of these inward-looking episodes lifts him, or the film, from its Mogadon daze. This is cinema that keeps its shades resolutely on.
In his first adult role, Pattinson is fantastic – wolfish, haunted but barely animate all at once. Howard Shore’s minimalist score elegantly matches the mood, and Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography gives everything a glazed, fish-tank glow.
However, there’s no escaping the fact that this is an inert, dissatisfying piece – like Crash without the crashes. The characters don’t talk, they make abstract pronouncements such as, “Life is too contemporary.” These may work on the page, but onscreen they sound like insights without insight or one-liners that forgot to be funny.
That’s almost certainly the intention – distance and dissociation are the major currencies here – but two hours stuck in a gridlock of impenetrable ideas will likely leave you as numb as Packer himself. “Violence needs purpose,” he proclaims before finally committing some. True, but then so does cinema.
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)
Little White Lies (UK)
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Total Film (UK)