Plot: Jimmy Cremming (Matt Dillon) is headed to Bangkok, where he hopes to hide out after getting tangled in an insurance fraud investigation. While there, he discovers that his mentor and partner in crime, Marvin (James Caan), is in Cambodia with the loot. All Jimmy wants is his fair share ? but the closer he gets to Marvin and his world, the crazier — and more dangerous — life turns.
Review: I really wanted to like this movie, but it just falls flat. I had the opportunity to view this at a pre-screening in New York. Palm, Inc. was sponsoring the event and I was lucky enough to be invited. Given the pre-party and the potential for celebrities to attend (there were none), I was pretty hyped. Loving movies like I do, this was the one of the best of all possible worlds in which to see this movie – it didn’t help.
“City of Ghosts” is Matt Dillion’s first shot at directing and writing a film and it shows. The main character, Jimmy Cremming, is supposed to be this un-trusting scam artist that’s been trained in it all his life. That may sound good on paper, but you have to demonstrate it on the screen and Dillion simply refused to show his character as un-sympathetic. If the character has grown up grifiting and scamming then there should be some evidence of it in his demeanor at least and there just isn’t. As a result, the main character has no story arc. Although he is supposedly going through a transformation, there is no evidence of it.
None of the major characters have any depth or range to them either. James Cann walked through this role, Stellan Skarsgard does nothing but play a drunk and Natascha McElhone was nothing but eye candy. A lot of good talent that was simply wasted. There were two notable exceptions. Two actors were able to brake out of the bad script enough to create a character that you could actually care for. Gerard Depardieu plays a very funny inn keeper/bartender. His role could have been almost forgotten, yet instead Depardieu instilled such humor and compassion in his role that it’s one of the more memorable. The other actor was Kem Sereyvuth, who plays Sok, the local rickshaw operator who takes a liking to Jimmy Cremming and vice versa. Sereyvuth may have been type casted a bit in his role, I don’t know much about him, but his portrayal is honest and sincere. You get the feeling that they found the actor pulling a rickshaw and gave him a job. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it’s a testimony to his acting ability.
There is one facet of the movie that I greatly enjoyed and that was the portrayal of Cambodia. I have traveled some, but I’ve never been to Cambodia. Having said that, I got the feeling that I had truly traveled there. The use of music and the almost documentary style of the cinematography in the early portions of the movie transports you into another place. Hats off to Jim Denault for giving the film a distinct visual feel that gives the viewer something to chew on.
My Rating: (2 out of 5 stars)
My IMDB Review: [link]