Russell Crowe isn't happy that some joker put his running shoes on the memorial.

(2009) Thriller (Lionsgate) Russell Crowe, Jon Foster, Sophie Traub, Alexis Dziena, Laura Dern, Michael Kelly, Vivienne Benesch, Tanya Clarke, Tim Hopper, Brian Russell, Lee Sellars, Lou Sumrall, Arija Bareikis. Directed by John Polson

We are all of us victims of our own nature. We can’t escape it, although we often try. We can’t fight it, although we make the attempt. We can hide it, but sooner or later our true nature emerges, the face behind the mask; sometimes, heaven help the person who witnesses it.

Eric Komenko (Foster) was brought up by strictly religious parents who blew a gasket when they found out he was having sex. Eric didn’t like that; he didn’t like it at all – so he killed them. He was arrested and tried, where a persistent pattern of abuse emerged. A sympathetic jury gave him a light sentence so he was sent to juvenile detention where he is just being released after a few years, now an adult.

He is being watched by Lt. Cristofuoro (Crowe), the tenacious semi-retired police officer who originally arrested Eric and who thinks he will inevitably kill again and has killed others before, people whom the parole board didn’t take into account. The policeman’s wife is in a coma (for reasons never fully explained in the film), so he spends a good deal of time (when not stalking Eric, who now goes by the last name of Poole) at the hospital – when he’s not pontificating in the form of voiceovers. Then again, his name transfers as “Christ’s fire” so you do the math.  

He’s not the only one watching Eric. Lori Cranston (Traub), an abused girl who has a prior connection to Eric, stows away in his trunk as he drives to Funland, where he has agreed to meet a girl (Dziena) that he’d met in prison. What Eric’s intentions are can be summed up thusly – not good. What Lori wants isn’t clear; a quick way out – maybe. Romance with a convicted killer? Possibly. Revenge? The Magic 8-Ball isn’t clear on that point. Maybe she’s working with the police to get Eric arrested and sent back to prison; maybe she isn’t. What is clear is that by the time the movie ends, someone is going to see Eric’s true nature, for better or for worse.

While the movie is based on a Robert Cormier novel, it is more of a mess than you might think. There doesn’t seem to be any clear point to the film; there’s a lot of mumbo jumbo uttered by a bored-sounding Crowe on the voiceover on the roles of pleasure and pain in life but by and large, we do get (most of us anyway) that pain sucks for a lot longer than pleasure doesn’t with or without the help of the filmmakers.

Crowe is the nominal star of the movie but it’s a glorified cameo; he does do the voiceover narration but most of his scenes are without the leading players. He’s solid enough as the rumpled cop, but he doesn’t have a lot to work with. Foster is pretty much the main man here, and his character is a walking jumble of complexities; he doesn’t really have the chops to pull it off but quite frankly, I’m not sure anybody does.

Traub doesn’t do a bad job as the somewhat conflicted Lori, but the script is so all over the map that it’s hard to really get a line on what she wants and what motivates her. There is a little epilogue that gives you some insight into her mindset but at the end of the ballgame, it’s too little too late.

I wish I could have liked this movie more – there were some interesting concepts and some nice psychology to it. Unfortunately, the script never really develops them and by the time the movie comes to a grinding halt, you might well be too involved in texting your friends or playing on your laptop to notice.

WHY RENT THIS: Some interesting psychological studies are to be found. Crowe is solid although unspectacular.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Lots of potential but doesn’t quite deliver. Foster doesn’t quite carry off the complexity of the lead role.

FAMILY VALUES: Along with the inevitable bad language, there’s some disturbing sexual and violent content.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Crowe was only on set for nine days and filmed all his scenes in that time.




TOMORROW: The Wicker Man