This film image released by Entertainment One shows Robert Pattinson in a scene from "Cosmopolis." (AP Photo/Entertainment One)
1 and 1/2 stars out of 4
For the first 30 years of his career, David Cronenberg was regarded as a very smart and savvy horror director. Far from commercial, his "Scanners" and "Videodrome" are cult classics and his two back-to-back efforts from the mid-'80s ("The Dead Zone" and "The Fly") brought him as close as he will ever likely get to mainstream popularity.
In the 21st century, Cronenberg has largely avoided gore and the macabre and gained a moderately larger following with headier material such as "Spider," "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises." They were visceral on more of an emotional and within a thriller context. Last year, he distanced himself even further from his past with "A Dangerous Method" -- a character-driven drama dealing with the birth of psychoanalysis.
"Cosmopolis" is not violent or bloody or even intense and, sad to say, not very interesting on almost any level. It might be the least satisfying and unfocused film Cronenberg has ever made.
Vampire heartthrob and the recently jilted Robert Pattinson stars as Eric Packer, a 20-something Wall Street whiz-kid with an ego the size of the Chrysler Building. Even though the U.S. president is in town and traffic will be monumentally snarled, Packer insists he be driven to the opposite side of town to get a haircut he doesn't need by a barber who previously tended to his late father.
Almost as pale as his "Twilight" character and twice as dull, Pattinson's Packer is instantly unlikable and saucer-level shallow. It's not immediately clear whether or not what takes place during the movie is real or a dream, but it is presented as dream-like.
With some very fancy editing and clever camera placement, supporting characters come in and out of frame all within the confines of an obscenely long stretch limousine. The conversations are sketchy at first; some are with professional subordinates, others with romantic interests, but all deal with deathly dry finance to some degree. Even when slightly interesting with details, movie dialogue about dollars and cents is painfully static. Add in a closed-quarter setting such as this along with often incoherent, naval-gazing psychobabble and the already claustrophobic air rises to unbearably stifling levels.
The movie gets slight breaks at two points when Packer has a conversation with someone who might be his wife (Sarah Gadon) at a diner and another in the limo with his spiteful mistress (Juliette Binoche). These are the only points in the movie that stray beyond business or finance or portray Packer as something besides plastic or robotic.
Another initially promising respite comes in the extended final scene when Packer is outside the limo in a very undesirable part of town, shot at and soon in the company of Benno (Paul Giamatti), a beyond-disgruntled former employee living in a filth-riddled hovel. It would be next to impossible to have Giamatti appear in any film that wasn't interesting to some degree and it is -- but just barely. For a movie that teases the audience almost to the point of indifferent cruelty, the film concludes not just opened-ended but with an abrupt, unresolved stop.
The most frustrating facet of the movie is that it is based on a novel by Don DeLillo that came out in 2003 and eerily foreshadowed -- with stunning accuracy and clarity -- the global financial collapse that continues to this day. In his adaptation of the book, Cronenberg wrote a screenplay that fails miserably to capitalize on the rippling fallout of the meltdown or even what led up to it. Cronenberg -- by way of a highly miscast lead -- asks us to feel sorry for a guy who has no concept of the real world or the plight of the common man who is stuck on the bottom of his shoe.
This is a pointless movie about a man without a soul who never wakes up or sees the error of his ways coming out on a weekend at the tail-end of the summer season when no one outside of the lead or director's most devout followings will be interested in seeing it. (Entertainment One)