Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dallas 362 (2005)

For about twenty minutes, this is one of the greatest directorial debuts ever made. The opening scene gets things started with a bang, then we get the credits, which should be isolated, distilled and turned into a designer drug to keep club kids going all night. (Seriously, it's that cool.) Then we get to meet Scott Caan and Shawn Hatosy, and the two have a wicked, lived-in vibe that makes them likeable and believable as best friends who would do anything for each other if they don't strangle each other first. After that, there's the Marley Shelton scene, which is a wonderfully over-the-top ode to Hollywood-style love at first sight (and it's even more awesome because it ends up having no bearing on the rest of the film, which is a kind of perversity I can get behind). After all this, Caan has to fuck everything up by introducing the obnoxious supporting characters who will figure in the film's heist subplot. Val Lauren especially, with a couple nasally words, flattens this film's momentum like a flyswatter making contact on your kitchen counter. Caan may have artificially injected this crime-flick nonsense into his film to make it sell, or he may have intended it as an organic part of the plot all along. Either way, it doesn't work. It's lame and unimaginitive and it submerges the promise of his debut in a river of suck. I mean, there's this sharp and perceptive buddy movie, one that gains extra points for making Mom and The New Boyfriend into something other than useless caricatures, and it keeps getting interrupted by this fifth-rate knockoff of the third-rate knockoffs of Reservoir Dogs that were all the rage in the mid-90s, and let's not forget that Dogs is essentially a first-rate knockoff of The Killing... I mean Jesus. The acting in the buddy-movie portion of the film is first-rate, and Caan displays some directorial chops above and beyond what could be expected from a first-timer, let alone some young actor mostly famous for being James Caan's kid. The soundtrack is mostly great too (Queens of the Stone Age's "Regular Joe" over the closing credits!). It's a shame, then, that Caan's commercial instincts keep tripping up his aspirations. Dallas 362 is great whenever it sticks to its two main characters (or Rusty's immediate family) shooting the shit, but it comes apart whenever other people start popping up. Personally, I blame Selma Blair.

Grade: C+


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