“The Bag Man” (2014)
When we first meet Jack (John Cusack) it’s obvious that he is having a bad day. Driving at night in the Louisiana backwoods, he has a hand that is bleeding and a dead man in his car’s trunk. He has been sent by a man named Dragna (Robert De Niro) to pick up a black bag and go to a particular motel, check into room 13 and wait to get further instructions. Dragna has one rule for Jack, don’t look into the bag.
Jack’s night gets worse when he finds the motel he has to stay at, a motel filled with dangerous characters. Its run by a wheel chaired bound guy (Crispin Glover) who asks too many questions and follows every rule known to man. Jack also meets an eye patch wearing pimp (Sticky Fingaz) named Lizard and his sidekick named Guano (Martin Klebba), a track suit wearing dwarf that hails from Serbia. Added to the mix is a tall, long-legged, blue-haired hooker named Rivka (Rebecca Da Costa) who might have double crossed Lizard and wants Jack’s protection. Include an overly zealous local police department and it’s going to be a very long night for the “bag man.”
The film is a modern day Film Noir set in the swamps of Louisiana. It’s a very dark picture both in its visuals and in its theme. Like most Film Noir movies, Jack is a lone man up against the odds, not knowing if he can trust anyone, including the man that hired him. Cusack, while satisfying as the bag man that is having a bad night, isn’t asked to do too much, playing the part as though he hasn’t slept in a week. He’s never really challenged in the role as the character doesn’t have a lot of layers to him. I would have liked his character to have been a bit more complex. It just seemed that this character of the hit man was simply trying to survive while not looking in the bag, instead of making things happen.
Rebecca Da Costa, playing the stunning Rivka, has a hard time keeping up with the likes of Cusack and De Niro. She isn’t bad in the part, but she never gives us the feeling that there might be more to her character than what’s on the surface. Cusack and Da Costa do have good chemistry together, and in her performance, we see occasional glimmers to why Cusack would risk screwing up the job for this woman.
De Niro seems to be having the most fun in the film playing the crime boss Dragna. He delights in suggesting what books Jack should read all the while questioning his loyalty. It’s a part that De Niro rightfully underplays, letting his character flow from breaking a woman’s nose, then giving her information on the best plastic surgeon in the area. It’s a part that most actors would have gone over the top with, but De Niro never lets that happen.
The rest of the cast is an interesting mix of good and bad. Crispin Glover plays the motel manager as if he could be a direct descendant of everybody’s favorite killer, “Psycho” Norman Bates. It’s a fun part that brings a bit of weird humor to the film. Dominic Purcell plays the nosy Sheriff, but his performance is way too out of control as he almost salivates when given the opportunity to torture someone. Sticky Fingaz and Martin Klebba, as the pimp and his sidekick, also have a tendency to overplay their parts. It would have been interesting to see Klebba, tone down the act and make his character more restrained and menacing, instead of the almost comic relief character on the screen.
Cinematographer Steve Mason does an interesting take on the Film Noir genre, giving the film a much different look than your normal crime thriller. The script, co-written by Paul Conway and the director David Grovic, is the weak link to this film. The dialogue is clunky with characters have to spout lines that don’t quite match their actions. And the film, while it has quite a few twists to the plot, never seems to get up to full speed. It’s as if Grovic is taking his directions from his lead character, the laid back Jack. The film is too predictable and doesn’t bring anything new to the world of Film Noir. The film feels like it’s as if the director, like the character Dragna in the film, doesn’t want us to look into the bag Jack is carrying either. My Rating: Cable
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“The Bag Man” opens in Atlanta exclusively at AMC Barrett Commons 24