My main dudes John Cusack and Robert De Niro
have been nothing if not prolific lately. For the last
two years this pair have been putting out product at such an
amazing rate that I'm beginning to fear that one or the both
of might be deathly ill and are simply trying pile up the
dough so their families will be okay. You see, both of
these guys used to be somewhat discriminating in where they
applied their craft. Not so much anymore. In fact,
I don't think either of them really give much of a flying f**k
anymore. But I'm not mad at them, because I've been a
Cusack guy since 'Better off Dead' and I was born a De Niro
guy so I'm gonna watch whatever they put out. Like this
movie here, 'The Bag Man' which actually wasn't so bad until
it just kind of lost its way.
Mr. Dragna (De Niro) is some kind of super criminal who needs
his guy Jack (Cusack) to do a very simple thing.
Retrieve a bag and hold it for him until he comes to get
it. For this simple task Jack will get an exorbitant
amount of money with the only preclusion of this task being
that he NOT LOOK IN THE BAG. Very simple.
Next time we see Jack he's on a pay phone laying into Mr.
Dragna as he's been shot and has a dead body in his
trunk. But he has the bag and he has not looked in the
bag. The next step of this task is to go to an out of
the way motel and rent Room 13… not 12… not 14….but 13 and
wait for Dragna to show up and get his bag. Again, it
couldn't get much simpler, right?
The problems start for Jack, in room 13, when homeboy knocks
on the door and asks for a cork screw. Actually the
problems started when he rented the room from the Clerk with
that Clerk being played by Crispin Glover. That can
never be a good sign. Then there's the one-eyed pimp
floating around, the dwarf in the tracksuit, psycho cops and
of course the six foot prostitute in the electric blue wig
calling herself Rivka (Rebecca Da Costa). How do I know
she's six feet tall? Because they kept telling me over
and over again how tall she was. As a matter of fact I
had to look up the character's name since most everybody in
the movie referred to her as the six foot whore.
Despite all these distractions, we do have to
hand it to Jack as he is almost manic in finishing this job,
to the point that he will kill almost everybody in this movie
just to keep this bag safe. While never looking in the
bag. To what end… we don't know. Maybe that's one
of the issues I had with 'The Bag Man'.
Directed and co-written by David Grovic, 'The Bag Man' is… I
don't know… an odd movie. It's not a good movie, even
though it has elements in it which are very good. John
Cusack has been playing variations of this weary character
since he was teenager so he has it down to almost a
science. Plus he has extensive experience playing
characters trapped in questionable hotels since he had to this
in both 'Identity' and '1408' and as such he was pretty good
in this movie. Grovic certainly had a quality cast to
work with, in addition to De Niro and Cusack, he had a group
of actors well within their comfort zones. Kirk Jones
playing a pimp, Martin Klebba showing up as a hyper aggressive
dwarf, Dominic Purcell taking a brief turn as a stoic,
passionless police sheriff and Rebecca Da Costa being tall,
thin and good looking. They were all fine. The
look was dark and gritty, so the elements for a good movie
But this is a character driven thriller, considering the tight
spaces and limited locations, but the main character was a
little confusing. Somebody asks for a corkscrew, they
get shot in the head. Somebody breaks into his
apartment, messes with his precious bag, and seems to be lying
to him about everything… this person doesn't get shot in the
head, but instead kind of gets fallen in love with. Plus
it got somewhat repetitive watching Jack in the loop of
messing with the prostitute, messing with external hotel
vermin, hiding the bag, then doing it all over again.
De Niro? I will say he seemed a little more involved in
this movie than some of the other throwaway roles he's taken
lately. That's something at least. Though I gotta
think that Robert De Niro 25 years ago would probably
challenge a director more on certain things. Say like,
'I don't know David… would my character really base his life
philosophy on an episode of Full House?' or 'David, is there a
reason you have me looking like Dustin Hoffman having a really
bad day?', or 'David, is there any logical reason for my
character to be doing anything that he's doing right
now?' This version of Robert De Niro clearly doesn't ask
those questions anymore.
The thing that really keeps 'The Bag Man' from being a good
movie, if one were to ask me, is the end. The final two
scenes. A scene where Jack breaks from his already shaky
characterization and demands to know what's in the bag,
followed by a wacky shootout, closing out with one of those
'wrap it up with a scene from the past explaining stuff'
scenes. It's that scene that really throws everything
else we've seen, which hasn't been all that lucid in the first
place, completely off kilter. Now I'm asking 'what was
the point of all of this'? I hate asking that.
I didn't hate the movie though. 'The Bag Man' was an odd
mix of incongruent elements and strange events which
ultimately added up to very little or nothing… but it still
had enough in it to keep me entertained for the most part.