By Linc Leifeste | February 27, 2014
Director: David Grovic
Writers: David Grovic, Paul Conway, James Russo (original screenplay “Motel”), Marie-Louise von Franz (inspired by the story “The Cat” by)
Starring: John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa, Robert De Niro, Crispin Glover, Sticky Fingaz, Martin Klebba, Dominic Purcell
“How, exactly, in the hell did this film get made? I’d love to know how Robert De Niro got roped in to this.” Those were my first thoughts as the closing credits were rolling for The Bag Man, director David Grovic’s directorial debut. Not a good sign. Admittedly, my expectations were probably set a bit high for what had been billed as a “taut crime thriller” featuring John Cusack, Robert De Niro and Crispin Glover. Alas, expectations aside, there isn’t much in the way of thrilling tautness on display during the film’s 108 minute running time.
The basic plot line is that gun-for-hire Jack (John Cusack) is hired by criminal kingpin Dragna (Robert De Niro) to deliver a mysterious bag to him for a large sum of money. Jack is told repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that he is absolutely forbidden from opening the bag to take a peek at its contents in a painfully obvious effort to build up the viewer’s curiosity about bag’s contents. Once Jack acquires the bag he’s to meet Dragna in room 13 of an out of the way seedy motel to exchange it for cash and lots of it. Of course, things don’t go smoothly and soon Jack finds himself in waiting in “Hotel Bizzaro-World,” wounded, phoneless, with a dead body in the trunk of his car, and surrounded by a veritable freak show of characters.
The good: Crispin Glover bringing the weird playing a creepy, oddball, wheelchair-bound, ponytailed hotel clerk with one of the worst Southern accents you’re likely to hear in a theater this year. And before it too begins to feel like a hammer over the head, the film is imbued with a refreshing spirit of quirky campiness which manages, at least temporarily, to do battle with the film’s ultimately overpowering aura of tired cliche. Seeing a jumpsuit-clad Serbian midget pimp named Guano (Martin Klebba) stand astride an unconscious Jack, taking a piss on the back of his head (that, my friends, is pure cinematic gold).
The bad: Robert De Niro’s performance, which starts off promisingly enough before eventually deteriorating into an almost laughable mash of phone-it-in and how-in-the-hell-can-anybody-be-expected-to-deliver-these-lines-of-pure-shit. Rebecca Da Costa’s unimpressive turn as a hooker with a heart of gold who, shockingly, isn’t what she appears to be. The murky cinematography and even muddier script.
The ugly: The unnecessay and tired violence that saturates the film from start to finish. The grossly misogynistic spirit of the film that features De Niro graphically pummeling a woman repeatedly in the face, a female lead/damsel in distress who has to endlessly parade around the screen in a revealing outfit before being beaten, stripped and threatened with rape. And the misogynistic overtones are only accentuated by the ultimate reveal of what exactly that bag that Jack’s been carrying around contains inside. I won’t spoil it by saying what it is but I will say that if you manage to sit through the film long enough to find out, you’ll know that the reveal wasn’t worth the price paid.