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'City of Ghosts' *** 051105
The Work = ***
I enjoyed the film but found it a bit on the flat side. It didn't help that the plot such as it is takes a background to the location and the characters. Yet the film works. For me it was the authenticity of the location combined with the solid performances of the actors involved that kept me watching the film. By shooting on location in Cambodia Dillon has a real location already. All that was needed was real characters to inhabit it.
My favorite character was played by the always wonderful Gerard Depardieu. He plays Emile, a man who runs a small dilapidated bar and hotel. (You pay extra for air conditioning that doesn't work.) Big and boisterous, he runs his business by fending off criminals and deadbeats while passing on local info to the paying customers. He reminded me of a rundown, low income Rick from Casablanca; the charm is still there but not the money or the location.
Actually I kind of wished that the film had been about Emile. I wanted to know how he ended up in Cambodia, why he was there and where he was from. It's interesting that with a minimum of scenes Depardieu is able to create a full and interesting character. To their credit the other actors create real characters with not a lot to go on. Kem Sereyvuth, who plays the stereotypical loyal sidekick local, turns his role into a real character that by the end of the film I genuinely cared for. James Caan, Stellan Skarsgard and the others bring a certain weight to their roles that helped to keep me engaged.
There are moments in the film that now seem more eerie than they may have when the film was shot in 2002. Sequences of characters kidnapped, videotaped, ransomed, and executed instantly brought to mind the current situation and recent events in Iraq. Actually the films style at times comes close to documentary and sequences in a brothel seemed very real. I wonder if this film were released now would play better in theaters? I suspect only if advertised right. This film is no thriller and can not be advertised as one, it is far too laid back.
The loose and sometimes confusing nature of the plot kept me from being really drawn in. I suspect that there are those who will really connect with this film and will love it for what it is. For me it was enjoyable and Dillon deserves credit for not exploiting or glorifying the situation in Cambodia but I just wasn't that moved when it was all over with. Certainly not a bad film, I give it a moderate recommendation.
DVD = ***
All Together = ***
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