Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Amy Irving
This bore of a movie runs two-and-a-half hours which feels like three-and-a-half hours. It’s a contemporary thriller set in the world of drug trafficking and directed by Steven Soderbergh. It focuses on several inter-related stories, jumping between Mexico and parts of the U.S.
Here are some story elements: Two lowly Mexican policemen, Javier Rodriquez (Benicio Del Toro) and Manolo Sanchez (Jacob Vargas) do their part in quelling the drug trade in Tijuana. They join forces with General Salazar to crush the dreaded Tijuana cartel but soon discover that Salazar’s anti-drug attitude is really a front for his trying to eliminate the competition since he’s in cahoots with the Madrigal cartel.
In the United States, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) has just been named by the President as the new anti-drug czar. But at the same time, he’s fighting the drug war a little closer to home. He and his wife Barbara (Amy Irving) are trying to cope with teen daughter Caroline’s (Erika Christensen) drug addiction.
In San Diego, two undercover DEA agents, Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzman) help the U.S. government build a case against the high-powered Obregon drug cartel. They bust a mid-level drug trafficker named Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer) who cuts a deal to squeal on wealthy drug baron Carl Ayala (Steven Bauer) who lives in a rich suburb with pregnant wife Helena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and their young son.
All the while, we’re given a lesson on the scope of drug trafficking between Mexico and the U.S. and how difficult it is to stop. Greed and corruption abound everywhere.
Here are some of the problems: Lousy, grainy cinematography. For some reason, every scene taking place in Mexico is yellow. All the scenes in Washington D.C. are blue-cast. I thought maybe the production company couldn’t afford good lighting. Then I remembered that Director Soderbergh has a penchant for lousy, grainy cinematography as witnessed in some of his other films, like Out of Sight.
The movie is incredibly slow-going right from the start. It’s easily an hour too long.
Wakefield’s drug addicted daughter and her stupid friends are a bunch of spoiled rich kids who have no brains to do anything meaningful with their lives. It was absolutely agonizing having to sit through her nonsensical tales of woe. Too bad she didn’t just O.D. at the beginning of the film.
Zeta-Jones character moves quickly from surprised and disgusted about her husband’s drug involvement into a willing and more than able drug dealer in her own right.
DEA agents, whose sole job it is to protect a high profile witness, ignore their jobs and get the guy killed. Stupid is as stupid does. Although I do admit Cheadle and Guzman do provide for some needed comic relief.
Lotta says: Largely predictable, too many “smart” characters doing incredibly stupid things and boring. These are not the elements of a good film. The screenplay was adapted from a British mini-series – guess they tried to squeeze the whole series into this one film.
Rated R for graphic drug use, violence, language, nudity. Opens in Los Angeles and New York on Dec. 27th for Academy Award consideration (fat chance) and nationwide in January. Be sure to miss it!