had to travel halfway across Colorado by bus, 52 to 15 to the
40, to see Transsiberian. I started before it was dark,
with nothing but a back pocket full of Red Vines and a front
pocket full of Schlitz Malt Liquor. Actually, the hooch was
gone by the time I was out of Arvada. Maybe I should have kept
it in the bottle instead of pouring it into my pocket. Denim,
it turns out, is woven loosely enough that beer molecules can
escape through the mesh.
two hours riding public transportation smelling like a drunk
and looking like I'd wet myself. Actually, it worked out great;
I fit right in. Especially on the 15. Plus, I really could wet
myself and nobody could tell the difference. I didn't blend
in so well at the artsy-fartsy Landmark Chez Artiste, a shithole
of a theater. It's dingy, in a rundown strip mall and made up
of musty, long, narrow theaters with small screens. The floors
are sticky and the sound system shitty. The pre-show commercials
are for snooty shit like Stella Artois beer, which doesn't get
you any drunker than Hamm's, it just makes you feel more hoity-toity
doing it. I never understood that, though. No matter how fancy
the booze, the crapping-your-pants and puking feels the same.
Now, if pricey beer made you shit strawberries and throw up
beef tacos, well I'd be high-brow too. Anyway, the woman selling
tickets commented on how I reeded of booze and urine. But, seeing
as how I would be the only person in the theater, she'd let
At the beginning
of Transsiberian, it says the movie was funded by the
Lithuanian Film Society, and half the credits are Russian names.
Some guy with a Spanish name is producer, and I'm pretty sure
the descendants of the famed Leutonian band "The Happy Wanderers"
did the over-the-top soundtrack. The story starts in Beijing,
crosses Siberia and So, God damn, it really is a global effort.
And it would warm my cockles if the results weren't so damn
standard and based on stereotypes. Or if it didn't have Woody
Harrelson in it.
and Emily Mortimer play Iowans returning from a church mission
in China. Because Harrelson is a big train buff, they take the
six-day Transsiberian railway from Beijing to Moscow. Harrelson
is a "gee-whiz" tourist, all extroverted American stereotype,
while Mortimer is quiet and sad-acting. We're supposed figure
out early on that their marriage is sort of rocky. Soon, they
are joined in their ratty berth by a younger couple: a greasy-looking
Spaniard (Eduardo Noriega) and a young Seattlean (Kate Mara)
with a passion for excess mascara. The movie ladles on the red
herrings like nacho sauce at the ballgame. Quickly, we're told
something isn't right with the couple. Gee, I wonder if all
the foreshadowing with the drug-sniffing dogs and the opening
scene with Ben Kingsley playing a KGB-style drug detective are
some sort of clue.
as always happens in these movies, Mortimer falls for the Spaniard
and her trust is broken when he puts the drugs he's smuggling
into her bags. Kingsley pursues. But guess what? He's not exactly
what he seems either. The problem is not with that plot point,
but with Mortimer's actions. She gets herself into deep shit
by making a series of confoundingly bad decisions. She is supposed
to be scared, but I honestly can't even imagine the most desperate
dope doing the things she does. I can imagine a desperate screenwriter
doing them to get his story to bend to his will, but I didn't
buy her character and quickly lost interest. I had being dragged
by a chain behind a story with unseen locomotion.
to say it's fucking cold and the people are dicks, I'm not sure
why Transsiberian takes place where it does. There are
a lot of shots of snow to remind us that someone's nuts are
freezing off. The punch the point, it even shows a thermometer.
Outside of one, the buildings are uninteresting and municipal-looking.
The train is not used well. Mostly, we're crammed into a very
tight, bland cabin, with an occasional trip to the dining car
for vodka. But we rarely see out the window and even less often
get a sense that the train is moving.
act of the movie is pretty damn silly and gory. Normally, I
like those two things, but it's an abrupt change of pace here
and not keeping in the earlier attempt for a more creeping terror
kind of thing. It's over the top, forced and convoluted as hell
like a bad John Woo movie when you have a runaway train, torture,
unlikely getaways, etc. And then, in its denouement, it fucks
up royally only the way Hollywood can. For most of the movie
we're supposed to be appalled at the bad moral choices Mortimer
backs herself into. In its last five minutes, the movie wants
us to wash all that away with one hokey act that is improbable,
but also in no fucking way compensation for all the horror she's
brought upon others.
wants to be profound, it wants to be slow and dawdling because
that's more artsy. In the end, though, it falls back on the
same old ploy of using big action to mask its flaws, and the
confusion that almost any moral transgression can be monetarily
compensated. Two Fingers: it ain't worth the journey.
By the way,
if anyone can find a dog as fucking awesome as my girl Sophie
was, let me know. I miss her dearly, but we want another one.
to tell Filthy Something?