“The Bag Man” (2014) is a film noir crime drama by writer/director David Grovic that stars John Cusack as Jack, a hit man hired by a crime boss named Dragna (Robert De Niro) to deliver a bag to a motel. At the motel, while waiting for Dragna to show up, he encounters a slew of strange and dangerous characters, including a prostitute named Rivka (Rebecca Da Costa). The film opens in Atlanta exclusively at AMC Barrett Commons 24 theatre on Friday
David: Hi Mike, how are you doing?
I am great, thanks for talking to me today.
David: No. Thank you.
So tell us about your new film, “The Bag Man.”
David: I would say it’s sort of a classic noir thriller with a very interesting differences. The color palette we use hasn’t been seen in any noir film. The film is really about trust and loyalty. We have John Cusack playing the role of Jack, who plays what we would call a fixer in the underworld. Jack has been given an usual task by Dragna, his crime boss, who is played by Robert De Niro. Jack’s task is to go and collect a bag but under no circumstances is he to look inside. After picking up the bag, he is to go to a motel that is sort of at the end of the universe, out in the middle of nowhere, and to wait for the arrival of Dragna. While he is at the motel, protecting the bag, he meets an amazingly beautiful femme fatale, played by Rebecca De Costa. During his time there, he also meets somewhat less beautiful and more violent characters. It’s a film that has quite a lot of action but also humor.
How did you become aware of the project?
David: We got a script that we liked by the actor James Russo. When I read the script, I fell in love with the concept of James’ script, so when we went to write our script, we had a huge head start. When we starting writing we had to decide which direction did we want to take the script. We first looked at the lead characters and chose to make they very untypical. It was very different writing this script because usually you start with a blank sheet of paper, but here we already had something. So it was just up to us figure out where to keep the tension up and where to insert some humor to break that tension while still keeping the tone of the movie.
That is one of the things I like about this film. It does have that Film Noir tension to it, but at the same time it’s got a sense of humor. This poor guy is having his whole world collapse in one night. Just when he thinks he has a handle on the situation, something else go’s wrong. Jack just can’t catch a break in this film.
David: Absolutely, and I like to think that people come out of the film thinking that. It’s like that right from the start when he has a fight with the motel manager just to get his room. We learn very early on that this is going to be one hell of a night.
You have a great cast with John Cusack and Robert De Niro. How did you get these guys to be a part of your film?
David: I think that people either respond to a script or they don’t, they usually isn’t any middle ground. I was lucky, but it’s like that Gary Player quote, “The hard you work, the luckier you get.” Robert De Niro got it right from the start. He told me, “I love my dialogue. You’ve given me some scenes like I would have in the theatre.” I told him because he is Robert De Niro, “If you want to change anything, just let me know.” He said “I don’t want to change anything. I really love it.” And John responded to the entire script, especially his character’s relationship with his boss Dragna. John also loved the speed of the relationship progress between his character, Jack and Rebecca’s part, Rivka. That their relationship moved as fast as the plot. John came to the film with some great ideas of his own. To answer your question, I was very fortunate to get such a great cast, essentially my first choice throughout the entire cast.
John Cusack fits this role perfectly because even though his character is a hit-man and certainly has done some bad stuff, as soon as he shows up on screen, the audience likes him. It’s important that we are in his corner from the very beginning of the film.
David: Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. What you just said was exactly why John was my first choice for Jack. When something bad happens to him, like when he gets shot in the hand, it’s so important for the audience to go “oh, that’s a shame.” They need to be rooting for him, even though he has one or two imperfections.
Where did you shoot the film? Because the location certainly set the mood for the movie.
David: We shot most of the film just outside of New Orleans. The location certainly did set the mood for the film. I don’t know quite how to describe the motel that we found to use in the film. Let’s just say it’s a very appropriate setting.
The film has a look and feel to it that you can almost feel the humidity of the location and the motel is almost a character on its own
David: It is its own character. That’s what we worked so hard to achieve. I have to give credit to our production designer, Dennis Washington who worked so hard to make the motel its own character. Funny enough, after working in hot, humid Louisiana on our film, he went up to the cold Midwest to work on the film “Nebraska”.
While it is a violent film, I’m mean John Cusack is a hit man, the violence wasn’t over the top. Was that a conscious choice?
David: It was very much by choice not to be “over the top” with the violence in the film. There is a scene with Robert De Niro, early in the film that if you saw it on its own, you would think our film is really violent, especially against woman. But we felt it was important early on to show how violent De Niro’s character was so that his arrival later in the film becomes very meaningful. But for the most part we didn’t go overboard with the violence because when we do show violence it has more of an impact.
Besides Cusack and De Niro, you have Crispin Glover and Rebecca Da Costa in key roles. Talk about their performances.
David: Crispin was my first choice because he just owns those types of roles. He was just so wonderful in the part. Rebecca is immensely striking to look at, but she had an immediate rapport with John right from the start of shooting. That rapport was crucial to the whole casting process. The chemistry between the two of them was so impressive and added to the film.
Well. thank you so much for talking with me and I wish you success with the film.
David: Thank you so much.Follow @Lastonetoleave
The film opens exclusively in Atlanta at the AMC Barrett Commons 24