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City Of Ghosts

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: City Of Ghosts

Starring: Matt Dillon, James Caan
Director: Matt Dillon
Rated: R
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: April 2003
Genre: Suspense

*Also starring: Natascha McElhone, Gerard Depardieu, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Curry

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

If exotic, third world locales and talented actors playing bizarre characters are all it takes for you; you might just be able to enjoy CITY OF GHOSTS. But, if you demand some semblance of coherence and believability, you'll probably end up just as disappointed as I was. Not many films featuring Stellan Skarsg†rd, one of the most intelligent actors around, are bad, but this one is. At least it does have the gorgeous Natascha McElhone, playing her usual ornamental girlfriend role. Her films are always at least watchable, since she is such a singular beauty.

In his very inauspicious movie directing debut in CITY OF GHOSTS, Matt Dillon plays a "wrong-place-wrong-time type" named Jimmy. Dillon's acting isn't bad, but his direction is another matter entirely. Working from a scatterbrained script that he co-wrote with Barry Gifford, Dillon crafts one effectively atmospheric but completely murky scene after another.

The film opens with a hurricane. It seems that Jimmy, employed by a sinister and illusive guy named Marvin (James Caan), had sold worthless insurance policies to the victims of the storm. In a story in which just about everyone is dirty, the Feds quickly convince themselves that poor Jimmy was duped by the AWOL Marvin.

Most of the rest of the story is set in a completely rundown area of Cambodia, where Marvin has gone to invest his latest swindle money into a Las Vegas style casino, which he hopes to build there. Kaspar (Skarsg†rd) is one of Marvin's men. For comic effect, G‚rard Depardieu plays a sleazy bartender and hotel owner. Overall, the movie makes you kind of sad as you witness some fine actors slumming it.

The plot includes a rave at a ruin, severed body parts in a bag and pet pythons who like to eat monkeys. It's also -- so far as I am aware -- the only film in which James Caan attempts karaoke in Cambodian. (You'll want to plan your bathroom break for that scene.)

"It doesn't make any sense!" Jimmy complains to Kaspar towards the story's end. My sentiments exactly.

CITY OF GHOSTS runs 1:56. It is rated R for "language and some violence" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes

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