DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
END OF VIOLENCE, THE (director: Wim Wenders; screenwriter: Nicholas Klein; cinematographer: Pascal Rabaud; editor: Peter Przygodda; cast: Bill Pullman (Mike Max), Andie MacDowell (Paige Stockard), Gabriel Byrne (Ray Bering), Loren Dean (Doc Block), Traci Lind (Cat), Sam Fuller (Louis Bering), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Frank Cray), Nicole Parker (Kenya), Marisol Padilla Sanchez (Mathilda), Frederic Forrest (Ranger MacDermot), Udo (Zoltan Kovacs); Runtime: 120; Artificial Eye/CiBy; 1997)

 
"Wenders has succeeded in creating a mishmash of incendiary images about government conspiracy theories, but leaves the story up in the air."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This film's narrative promises much to say about how violent man is, as it uses contemporary L.A. for its location. But in the end it fails to deliver the goods. For reasons that are not artistically clear to me -- Wenders decides to abruptly check out of this slow developing story and ends it without a clear resolution. The film seemed to be oozing completely out of energy and purpose somewhere in the middle. It made me wonder why Wenders seemed to be so concerned in the first place with the socio-political manifestations of a top-secret government project gone awry and the public being exploited by Hollywood; and then, he concentrated for most of the film on the usual crime stuff of murder and missing persons, basically ignoring what he tried so hard to bring to center stage.

I have always found Wenders to be a bit pretentious and, at the same time, alluring. He always seems to bait me into thinking there is something more to his films than there are. There are exceptions like his wonderful Wings of Desire, but most of the time I feel that I am being intellectually short-changed. This picture is a perfect example of what I mean.

At first, the story appears to be about Mike Max (Pullman). He plays this bastard Hollywood movie producer who has gotten wealthy making exploitative action films and someone who can't communicate with his fine looking but empty wife Paige (Andie); he can only communicate bottom-lines, and is hooked on cell phones and on computers.

His wife is leaving him because he either constantly ignores her or dumps on her. Then the main event of the film takes place as we observe on video surveillance, in an observatory with telescopes and computers and video cameras, that Ray Bering (Gabriel Byrne), who is a computer expert, is watching two hitmen trying to kill Mike after kidnapping him. Instead, the hitmen end-up dead and Mike is found by some Mexican gardeners as he wanders along the road. Mike will now live with them, that is, after telling them he is the famous producer they see on the news, but is now considered to be a missing person.

The action then turns to following the life of Cat (Traci) who is the stunt woman Mike gave a big break to, giving her a starring role in his next film. The cop, Doc Block (Loren), who is investigating the disappearance of Mike is suspiciously pulled off the case when he starts asking too many questions around the set, but stays around long enough to fall for Cat and continue the investigation on his own.

The detective's investigation reveals that the video surveillance was a government plan used to spy on people and to cut down on the police response times to crime; and Byrne, the computer security expert who is setting this up for the government is afraid of its inherent dangers, such as the abuse of power this technology has for society. He has picked Mike, after just meeting him once at a computer convention in Las Vegas, to tell him about this classified project.

The most interesting and diverting scenes, are of the poetry performance readings. One of the readings is more powerful than anything that has to do with the story. A black woman poet (Parker) does a poem about being taken sexually by her father. This is Wenders being the arty Wenders, creating interest by being evocative no matter what the film calls for. I am not challenging him for such scenes, they are wonderful; but, I am put off by his inability to keep the story from going cold.

The last part of this narrative, leaves us with the belief that the violence will not be curtailed; therefore, there will be no such a thing as an end to violence. 

Wenders has succeeded in creating a mishmash of incendiary images about government conspiracy theories, but leaves the story up in the air.

REVIEWED ON 10/7/98                        GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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