Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

With ‘Boarding Gate’ we have a film that has an art house feel to it, highlighted by the fact art house ingénue Asia Argento is the film’s star, ‘XxX’ being an exception to that resume of hers. Films such as ‘Boarding Gate’ are difficult to get a decent grip on because they tend to skirt convention and tell their stories from directions that we aren’t accustomed to. Sometimes this approach works wonders as a filmmaker has shown true innovation in turning convention on its ear and has crafted an experience that makes us marvel at his or her story telling abilities. Sometimes, however, we watch these films and realize that our filmmaker is being different just for the sake of being different as the off beat angle that they were striving for added nothing to the story, and served only to confuse and confound. Director Olivier Assayas film is mix between artistic arrogance and generic convention that ultimately made for an uneven and muddled film experience.

As our film opens in Paris France we are introduced to Miles Rennberg (Michael Madsen), a businessman who has made some bad deals and is heavily in debt, and as such has informed his partner Andre (Alex Descas) that he’s selling his shares of the company. This doesn’t please Andre, who is not all that pleased with a lot of the things Miles has done professionally as well as personally, but he accepts his decision. In his personal life Miles is a divorced father and has reconnected with an old flame of sorts, an ex-prostitute by the name of Sandra (Argento) who used to work for him on a business level and service him on a sordid level a few years back. They discuss old times with Miles attempting to bring Sandra back into his life, but Sandra being resistant as she has other things going on that need her attention.

What these other things are I’m a bit unsure about, but it has something to do with importing illegal drugs through the company of her new boyfriend Lester (Carl Ng). Lester’s wife Sue (Kelly Lin) may also be in on the drug scam with Sandra, but again

this all kind of vaguely presented. What will happen next is an act of extreme violence which will require Sandra to leave Paris and try to find sanctuary in Hong Kong, home of her lover Lester but somebody hasn’t been entirely truthful with Sandra and she soon finds herself in a strange land on the run for her life.

‘Boarding Gate’ is quite the international flavored film as it is set in Paris and Hong Kong and spoken in Cantonese, French and English. I don’t know if this is a good thing because overall it just seemed to add to a narrative that was already extremely confusing as it was. The first two acts of the film were very erratic and disjointed, filled with events and situations that didn’t make much logical sense. The first act concerns itself with the relationship between Madsen’s Miles and Argento’s Sandra, which included a whole lot of dirty talking. One of the issues I had with the film is that real people normally don’t communicate this way to each other, speaking in riddles and parables followed, again, by them talking about the weird things they used to do to each other sexually. Now don’t think just because of that salacious movie poster that we have some kind of sordid sexually charged film here because we really don’t, just a lot of really dirty talking about a lot of strange sexual pathologies. Argento does have brief nude scene, and any of us who have followed Ms. Argento’s career at least a little bit probably knows the contours of her naked body better than even she does as she often spends a lot of time nude in her films, this just wasn’t one of them. This also had one of the odder sex scenes I’ve seen featuring her and Madsen, he fully clothed and in her bra and panties, doing something… and despite the extra large size of the movie screen, and the fact that scene was completely lit, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what they were supposed to be doing.

The confusion that was ‘Boarding Gate’ clears up a tiny bit when she gets to Hong Kong and just tries to stay alive as the film turns into a bit of an action thriller, but then the confusion resurfaces as we wonder exactly how Kelly Lin’s character of Sue figures in all of this, the appearance of a mysterious blonde figure (Kim Gordon) who seems to be both friend and foe, and more confusing bits in the narrative which cause one to question everything they’ve seen prior to this. Is it artistic exposition or just poor storytelling? I’m leaning towards the latter.

Despite the wandering and confusing story, Argento gives an effectively harsh, gritty and worn performance, as she often does. For such a pretty woman she sure can look beat down with the best of them. Madsen gives one of his better performances, and considering the mammoth number of DTV throwaways I’ve seen him in lately, this is most welcome and Kelly Lin is about as pretty as they come. None of this however was helpful in clearing up what was ultimately a disappointing story that did have some visual flair but was loaded down with an unnecessary convoluted narrative and empty substance.

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