Time Out says
Tue Aug 9 2005LA, now: over 36 hours or so, a selection of typically (conveniently?) diverse Angelenos try to cope with the complexity of living in a rough, tough multi-racial society. Cops and law-enforcers of several ethical and anatomical hues (Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Ryan Philippe, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser) feature prominently, along with others involved in one kind of crime or another as culprits, victims or witnesses (potential or actual): car-jackers, a Latino locksmith, an Iranian storekeeper, a daytime-TV actor, a seemingly helpless ‘Chinaman’ and various partners professional or personal (Thandie Newton and Sandra Bullock included). If that sounds an almost Altman-esque tall order for an American movie, rest assured writer-director Haggis (who wrote Eastwood's superb ‘Million Dollar Baby’) has won some fulsome praise for this ensemble drama evoking the tensions in post-9/11 LA. It’s certainly not an unambitious or unintelligent film, outlining its slightly frayed thesis from the start with a terse but resonant reflection on the paucity of contact between folk divided/protected by metal and glass. Indeed, it starts promisingly with a series of vivid vignettes (though these tend to slip too easily into verbal insult and fiery volatility) and a clutch of more substantial scenes that look set to lead to intriguing consequences: one pay-off with Dillon and Newton generates cruel irony and suspense despite depending on credibility-stretching coincidence, while a brief encounter between Cheadle and Fichtner explores pleasingly murky waters. Then things steadily fall apart. An already over-eventful narrative – what, another crash? – teeters into melodramatic implausibility, loose ends unravel and the final quarter-hour offers little more than a hackneyed, hollow, wrily reassuring hymn to acceptance, resignation and – yes – redemption. Compare this to superficially similar but politically, philosophically and dramatically superior works like ‘Code Unknown’ or ‘City of Hope’ and the shortcomings and compromises become clear; this is more ‘Grand Canyon’ or, to be generous, ‘Magnolia’ (savour that snow!). In the City of Angels, maybe it feels deep; here, probably less so.
Fri Aug 12, 2005