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USA 2009
Directed by
John Polson
101 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Russell Crowe plays a retired cop, Lieutenant Cristofuoro, with a wife in a coma and obsessed by the case of a young man, Eric (Jon Foster), who has just been released from jail for killing his parents.  Unlike the justice system Cristofuoro realizes that Eric is a sick puppy and will kill again. But so has a 16 year old girl, Lori (Sophie Traub) who attaches herself to him in order to escape her home life with her clueless single mother and creepy boyfriend.

Jon Polson’s thriller has a strong Lynchian vibe to it due in part to the ‘dysfunctional suburbia’ subject matter, in part to Jonathan Goldsmith’s music (an influence acknowledged presumably by the presence of Laura Dern in a small role) and it succeeds in creating a sense of foreboding menace.  Somewhat strangely it also manages to never amount to much.  

Despite Crowe getting top billing his performance is low key with most of the attention being given to Eric and Sophie with Traub doing a good job as the self-harming teenager. The lack of dynamic and the excess of plot conveniences (or in the case of Eric’s liaison with a girl he met in detention, obscurities) may have been intended to be enigmatic but the actual effect is more truly underwhelming.

One can imagine the novel by Robert Cormier on which the film is based reading quite well, in particular bringing out the resonances of the title, which here gets what seems to be a rather pretentious application to Eric’s pathology with Crowe’s voice-overs about pleasure and pain not seeming to have much relevance to the narrative other than adding to the lugubrious tone.

FYI: Polson’s association with Crowe goes back to their days in Australia as fellow actors where they appeared in films such as The Sum of Us (1994).




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