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Friday, October 16, 2015

JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT -- Movie Review by Porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online in 2007.)

An aerial camera shot takes us slowly down into the mean streets of São Paulo, Brazil as darkness falls on the city, beginning a long, bloody JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT (2006).

Writer-director Eric Eason's third film is the story of an aging sex club owner named Rosso (Scott Glenn) who inadvertently ends up with a big suitcase full of cocaine and decides to use it as his ticket out of the gutter and into sunny retirement in L.A. with his young wife Angie (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and their little boy.

He makes a deal to sell the coke to some Africans, but when his mule keels over dead hours before the sale, Rosso must quickly find another African who speaks the same language. The only available candidate is a dishwasher in his club, Wemba (Mos Def of "Dexter: The Complete Sixth Season" in a very good performance), so Rosso gives him the suitcase, promises him he'll never have to wash another dish again in his life, and sends him on his way.

 Rosso is a "good" bad guy, somewhat distinguished in his own decrepit way and not really a threat to anyone. But his older son Paul (Brendan Fraser, BLAST FROM THE PAST) is a bad bad guy; he plans to doublecross his old man, intercept the cash, and blow town with Angie and the kid (who appears to actually be his kid), and will kill anyone who gets in his way.

After Wemba fails to return with the cash at the appointed time, Paul throws a conniption fit in practically every scene--he screams, hurls cel phones (he must have dozens of spares), spits, cries, and points his gun a lot. A random altercation with a tranny hooker (Matheus Natcheragaele) quickly escalates to the point where he's slashing the poor slob's face with a straight-razor and growling, "Try making money with that face." Bad, bad Brendan Fraser!

 I like Scott Glenn (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, SURFER DUDE) in just about anything he does, though here he allows his formidable presence to carry the role of Rosso, not really putting a lot of effort into it. Fraser, on the other hand, seems to relish playing such a vile, sadistic bundle of misplaced energy. He goes all out in his final scene in which he tells off his old man, unloading years of festering resentment over a long-ago incident that finally sorta helps us understand where he's coming from a little better. It's fun seeing the "George of the Jungle" and "Dudley Do-Right" guy get a chance to go over the top like this. Not exactly Oscar-bait, maybe, but fun.

Anyway, as Paul flies off the handle all over one side of town, Wemba is on the other side trying to make his way back after getting knocked out by muggers and almost having the money stolen from him. He's aided by a kindly young woman named Monique (Alice Braga, Sonia Braga's niece), who's just been kicked out by her cheating boyfriend, and she offers to drive him back as he recovers from his head wound. But one of Paul's men spots them and starts blasting away as he chases them on a motorcycle. It's a pretty exciting chase scene--not great, but pretty good.

 Eric Eason's direction of the film can be described the same way. Everything's just well-done enough to sustain interest and make it worth watching, yet it never really has the edge needed to achieve the kind of visceral impact that someone like Martin Scorcese or even Tony Scott could have given it.

Even the big climactic confrontation where everyone's shooting everyone else, which should pack a real wallop and leave us gasping for breath, comes as a bit of a letdown. Although the story is fairly well-resolved and I wasn't totally disappointed, it doesn't really leave any lasting impression.

 However--I've seen a lot worse, and I certainly wouldn't advise against giving JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT a tumble. It's a pretty entertaining flick, just as long as you don't expect this journey to blow you away.


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