City Of Ghosts

"Very Good"

City Of Ghosts Review


Lest you think all actors are suddenly turning into directors, (as in George Clooney's 2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) let me point out that it's not a new phenomenon (Kenneth Branagh's 1989 Dead Again). So, there's nothing extraordinary about Matt Dillon directing (and co-writing and acting in) City of Ghosts. And what he's turned in here for his theatrical film debut is a rather atmospheric journey set within the corrupt, decrepit precincts of Cambodia with plenty of opportunities for tension and intrigue.

The question is whether he developed his story to take full advantage of the setting for Asian mystery (this is the first film shot entirely in Cambodia since 1964) and the cutthroat characters that people it -- at least in fiction. Unfortunately, writer-director Dillon evokes the color and the mystery without quite managing to create gut-gripping drama. The flaw is in the content.

Jimmy Cremming (Dillon) is earnestly selling insurance policies for his boss, Marvin (James Caan), when the FBI comes down on the company for defaulting on payments to policy holders after a hurricane disaster. They treat Jimmy like a suspect but are primarily trying to locate Marvin, who, apparently, has skipped out on his Russian partners and out of the country. Jimmy, oblivious of the Ponzi scheme that kept the company in business, is as pissed as anyone, more at the deception by a man who has always done right by him than for a missing paycheck. So, against the feds' instructions, he takes off to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, where his connections tell him Marvin is in residence. He needs to have a face-to-face with his boss.

His primary connection to Marvin is through Caspar (Stellan Skarsgård), Marvin's right-hand man and a person who knows a great deal about the king-pin's operations and whereabouts. Caspar arranges lodging for Jimmy at the crumbling Belleville Hotel, a less than posh set of rooms above a bar, run by Emile, an earthy Frenchman (Gérard Depardieu). Emile is essentially decent, but short tempered -- if not violently threatening -- with the Cambodian riff-raff that find harbor in his establishment as they scam for a quick buck from his clientele. Jimmy has entered a hotbed of lying, thievery, and worse.

From then on it's almost all criminal cohorts, high finance for a monster casino, threats from the Russians, plots and counterplots, revenge incurring revenge. Caan uses his frame-to-frame swagger to good effect as the American con man scamming on a global scale, making his bed with Cambodian criminals while maintaining a desire to protect Jimmy.

Dillon maintains a degree of screen presence, largely through a sense of vulnerability, but interest in him is scattered by a running time that is padded and a script that invokes clichés. Natascha McElhone turns it on enough to get the male jets going while Skarsgård is suitably bipolar in his strengths and allegiances. He defines the environment when he says, "The whole country needs a paint job."

City of Ghosts leads us through a set of agendas and lack of scruples against a decaying city in the heat and heart of the Asian continent. This is the territory and modality of Graham Greene, whose The Quiet American might have been Dillon's template for this venture into the exotic, though his hero's struggle for clarity while suffering assorted brutalities wears thin by story's end. Sympathies are not quite brought to the boil of caring, perhaps because of too much contrivance in the telling. But you do get a sense of estrangement and noirish atmosphere, which may be close to justifying the effort, if not the price of admission.

...in the name of love.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 116 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 27th March 2003

Box Office USA: $0.3M

Distributed by: MGM Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 35

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.