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Rated: R for language and some sexual content.
Genre: Arthouse Drama
Directed By: Wim Wenders
Running Time: 2:02
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 8/17/05
DVD Features:
If you like this, try: Identity, Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, Murder on the Orient Express

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Boris Karloff as Frankenstein


This surreal neo-noir murder mystery that often times borders on the whimsical boasts many shades of the positive with a story that has no clear cut answer in the end. When a mentally ill man is killed in the "Million Dollar Hotel", a haven for mental defects, a short-tempered bulking detective named Skinner has to interview a building filled with mental defects and weed out the killer. Now that's a challenging dilemma amidst many people with personality disorders, amidst this building of lost souls we're given some great acting ala Jeremy Davies who is fun as Tom Tom, the mental defect trailing Skinner to see how he investigates the cast, Jimmy Smits as an eccentric Indian, and Peter Stormaire who is hilarious as a man who thinks he was in the Beatles and talks like Ringo Starr. As always the characters are only as good as the actors as the all-star cast of character actors really put their talents on display, as does Davies who is very sympathetic as the well-meaning but nutso Tom Tom. Gibson is also hilariously over the top in his role as Skinner, and really does chew the scenery, but in the end, Davies and the rest of the cast show their talents undermining his.

As a film, "Million Dollar Hotel" will appeal to an exclusive audiences taste, the audience that are fans of Lynch and get off on the Cronenberg surrealistic absurdum whom will beam at this sort of neo-noir whimsical elegy. The movie is not exactly multi-faceted in movie-going appeal, and it really did test mine. Proof in the pudding, I just couldn't find appeal or interest in much of what it was trying to offer, if it was attempting to offer anything, that is.

Amidst the utterly surreal dreamy imagery, and often odd situations, as hard as supporting member Gibson tries to outshine everyone, he just ends up seeming inconspicuous. With a character that is never really good or bad, but more the anti-hero of a sorts, Gibson is extremely over the top as a mental man attempting to weed out a killer among mental invalids, and Gibson just never seems to buy in to the role, so he just comes off less professional than the rest of the cast. He's louder, brighter, and presents more of a presence than the rest of the cast, and that, in turn, ruined his performance because it comes off as incredibly hammy and I just couldn't get over that he was more trying to steal the scenes than act alongside the cast of oddballs.

The film also just never really seems to know what type of film it really is. Is it a portrait of lost souls, a glimpse in to the minds of mentally sick people whom live in their own mind, a glimpse in to the hotel which ends up really being their own world, a twisted love story, or a demented murder mystery. It's never really sure, and like the mental patients here, it's never sure where it wants to go, what it's trying to say, nor does it seem like it's trying to. This is a weird movie, one that was just too surreal for my tastes and its haphazard story never really registered in to a solid concept of what the director was trying to get across. The film is often very meandering and saunters on with its situations almost ruthlessly with character emphasis I just didn't care about, and scenes that border on ridiculous all leading up to the uncovering of the killer who isn't really that surprising as a killer, and a pay off that is anything but. In the end, while the concept has the potential, it just doesn't get a hold of the story.

Despite inspired performances from a talented cast, the film just didn't appeal to me, and will likely not appeal to anyone but the audiences it's trying to. Though fashioned with much eccentric atmosphere and whimsical settings courtesy of Wenders, it's just not a good movie.

  • When Tom Tom is handing out drinks, he passes by Bono, the lead singer of U2 who is talking to two men and wearing his trademark shades. It's brief, but if you look closely behind Tom Tom, he's there.



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