William Gibson + Christopher Walken… how could this go wrong?
Those of you who have read New Rose Hotel in “Burning Chrome” already know that this is a (very) short story about the 20/20 hindsight of a corporate underworld guy who’s just watched his “big score” turn to shit. Well, the movie works in a similar way, but is executed so terribly that I can’t believe it wasn’t completely re-edited before release.
The gist of things is that Willem Dafoe and Christopher Walken are plotting their “big score” to lure an invaluable scientist away from MAAS Biotech to Hosaka corp. They’re getting $100M for the defection, and they find a hottie hooker (same actress who played Yalena in xXx) who’s willing to seduce him for $1M. Dafoe, however, falls in love with her during the planning, and gets “blind” to what’s really going on.
Up to this point, everything is pretty Ok with the film. However, we’re at about the 60% mark when everything turns to shit… both in the story and the telling. Their scientist ends up dead, the girl vanishes, and the mob is going to kill everybody. Walken leaps to his death for no apparent reason, leaving Dafoe to go into hiding alone. Up to this point, the two things of interest in the movie are 1) Christopher Walken’s businessman-gangster performance, replete with one liners (“Waiter! Free coleslaw for EVERYBODY!!”) and 2) Asia Argento is smokin’ hot and more than slightly naked.
We then spend the next 30 minutes watching a sweating Willem Dafoe rub a pistol on his forehead while being taken back through bits and pieces of the movie, each with another second or two of dialog that was cut off the first time - revealing that the hooker was double crossing them and it would have been plainly obvious had he not been thinking with his pecker the whole time. Then, suddenly the credits roll… there’s really no end, it just when his lamentation catches up to the present. You’re wondering if he’s going to off himself with that gun he’s been playing with all night, or get out of this somehow, and they just roll the credits.
It’s unfortunate that only in the nearly unbearable “wrap up”, that consitutes the last half of the movie, is the film faithful to the manner it was presented in the book. The editing just doesn’t work, because we already know whodunnit and it’s painful spending 30 minutes being spoon-fed his process of figuring that out. It’s like watching Memento, but after the first half of the movie showed things in sequence straight through.
How it might have worked – Begin the movie with Dafoe hiding in the New Rose. We wonder why, and thus he can begin right off the bat to remember how he got there. Instead of remembering everything in sequence, we’re shown the highlights - just a very broad overview - and then certain sequences trigger a leap back to something we’ve already seen. In these cases, show a few seconds of previously seen footage to orient the audience, and then allow it to flow into the unseen tidbit that is the tip-off. Then, show another “happy moment” to wash away our suspicions. Keep the audience undecided until at the end, a rapid series of these jumps back to damning signs of betrayal leaves us with the scene of the “smoking gun”, in this case the biochip that he found in her papers that was also seen on the news report about the virus in the lab. Give Dafoe a few minutes of final lamentation… then he decides to make a break for it. Fade to black. Sounds of running feet, pistol shots, running feet off into the distance. Roll credits.
With a proper re-edit the existing footage presented here could make a damn fine film. I’m near tempted to do it.