Thursday, 6 September 2012


You can't polish a turd, so the saying goes. And if that turd is your own screenplay, no amount of directorial trickery can save it. Perhaps Oliver Stone was once the director to accomplish just that. At the least, he showed the promise of developing into such a director, but, whereas, at his best, his writing indulged his wildest, most provocative, subversive fantasies, the writing here is perfunctory and shallow, a platform for an array of sexy, soulless visuals, impressive but forgettable. The only fantasies here are those of an unimaginative adolescent - the sex, the cars, the drugs, the violence - and their realisation on screen is flat and thoughtless. Stone tries (not very hard) to inject freshness into the film via his trademarks, like the flashy editing and deceptive plot, but he shoots himself in the foot in that very process: his trademarks have become just that because he's been using them since the early '90s. They sure ain't fresh any more. And there's nothing new nor exciting about a storyline in which the expected twists involve little more than snitching villains and one of those irritating devices wherein the movie rewinds and tells you that what you just saw was mere hypothesis and this is what really happened. The bland leading actors are all show, there to look good and look good looking good, and Stone treats them just so. They eventually become supporting characters in his film, which is to its benefit, as at least the other actors (Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro, Demian Bichir) seem to be trying. There's a lot of ugly behaviour from a lot of pretty people, and none of it has much lasting effect. Stone's so eager to press on, he doesn't allow any individual moment to run its course and take full shape - this worked in Natural Born Killers, for example, as the individual moments weren't the point, it was the overall experience, but his ideas are too conventional now and his filmmaking lacking in energy and humour. Indeed, this film, so ripe with opportunities for humour, is one of the least funny films I've seen in a long time.