EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|BIG EMPTY, THE (director/writer: Steve Anderson; cinematographer: Chris Manley; editor: Scott Scalise; music: Brian Tyler; cast: Jon Favreau (John Person), Rachael Leigh Cook (Ruthie), Sean Bean (Cowboy), Daryl Hannah (Stella), Joey Lauren Adams (Grace), Adam Beach (Randy), Kelsey Grammer (Agent Banks), Gary Farmer (Indian Bob), Jon Gries (Elron), Brent Briscoe (Dan), Bud Cort (Neely), Melora Walters (Candy); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating:R; producer: Gregg L. Daniel; Lions Gate Entertainment; 2003)|
|"I found the sicko humor enjoyable enough."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Writer-director Steve Anderson in his feature fictional film debut
(previous work was in documentaries) helms this quirky unpretentious
comedy, that is possibly after The Big Lebowski audience and those who
favor weird cult films. It desperately tries to spoof losers, actors,
cowboys, serial killers, believers in alien abductors and those stuck
without any culture in America's wasteland. It's second-rate satire, with a pulse on being a film noir blended
with a spoof on alien sci-fi flicks and a David Lynch type of
experimental film. Some
this nonsense harmless fun, others might just find it dumb.
I found the sicko humor enjoyable enough if you let your hair down to
take it lightly, but I realize it's not a film for everyone.
Struggling unemployed L.A.
actor John Person (Jon Favreau),
star on a sitcom, is in big credit card debt and therefore
accepts a crazy job offer from his weird nerdy neighbor Neely (Bud
Cort), at Hollywood's landmark Alto Nido Apartments, to deliver a
mysterious blue suitcase to a man called Cowboy (Sean Bean) at a remote
truck stop out in the desert of Baker, California, a halfway point to
Las Vegas and a gateway to Death Valley. For this task John will be
paid upon completion of his assignment $27,000. The suitcase is locked,
and he's ordered not to open it and to guard it with the loaded gun
he is given. His neighbor girlfriend Grace (Joey Lauren Adams) urges
him not to take the offer because she's suspicious that it sounds
too-good-to-be-true. But he
takes the offer because he's desperate.
Cowboy-a trucker in a cowboy
outfit, a black cowboy hat and black leather duster-is spotted in the
the seen-it-all laid-back bar owner Stella (Daryl Hannah), but he fails
to keep the appointment in John's seedy Hawaiian themed motel. As John
hangs around the
bar with Stella and at the motel with its eccentric manager Elron (Jon Gries) and his blue-collar pal
Dan (Brent Briscoe) waiting for
Cowboy, while the local boys are on the lookout for aliens, he meets a
threatening odd characters. For one, the violent psycho Randy
(Adam Beach), the jealous former boyfriend of Stella's adopted
coquettish daughter Ruthie (Rachael
Leigh Cook); is grilled by
a gregarious but menacing square FBI agent (Kelsey Grammer) about 75
persons in the area in one year; and finds things with Cowboy, when
they finally hook-up, dangerously problematical. John also learns that
his benefactor in L.A. has his head severed and it was deposited in his
bowling bag that he's carrying around.
None of it struck me as
particularly witty, but it was funny because it was so wacky. It seemed
throwing darts against the wall looking to be weird at all costs and
eventually for something to say that was pointed, as it raises the
question: Was my life worth living? With its alien abduction agenda
and many other nonsensical incidents thrown in, it returns eventually
to its theme that there's an emptiness inside many modern Americans and
the surrounding desert reflects that as "the big empty." That's where
aliens bury those they abduct--who are willing victims believing they
going to paradise. The Big Empty offers an enigmatic response
to all those leading a life of quiet desperation and looking for easy
(empty) answers. Not bad gravitas for such a silly film, as it follows
through on a Thoreau saying and give its titular desert a metaphorical
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ