Lightning Entertainment // 2009 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 27th, 2009
Val Kilmer (Willow) stars as John, someone who acquires items to sell on the black market at considerable risk to his well being. He operates on the fringes of legality, which is of course a euphemism for "he's a dirty criminal." One day -- Columbus Day, to be specific -- John lands the score of his life, an acquisition that will set up him for life. Unfortunately, it also ensures that there will be attempts to make him extremely dead.
So he takes off to Echo Park, where he desperately tries to wheel and deal while simultaneously: a) cultivating a relationship with a precocious young boy, b) outsmarting the authorities that have tapped his phone, c) setting up an exchange with the most feared fence of them all and d) aggressively trying to rekindle his relationship with a former flame (Marg Helgenberger).
Columbus Day wants to be a funny, smart-ass little thriller but it fails at being both funny and thrilling. The black comic tone is there but that's it. Val Kilmer, who has developed a true mastery of the sarcastic retort over the years (his work here is reminiscent of what he was doing in the similarly toned but far superior Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), tries his hardest, but he simply doesn't have the writing to work with. The jokes rarely hit; it's the kind of script that I surmise the writers thought was much cleverer than it actually was. Example: the dynamic between John and the little kid. This plotline dominates a surprising amount of the runtime, yet it yields little interest. The kid is given adult lines to utter and John looks at him with bewilderment and they go out on a paddleboat and perhaps that interaction plays some role in John's mini-epiphany to win his lady-friend back, but whatever the impact was to his character it was not worth the endless, tedious banter.
Look, Columbus Day is one of those movies that do absolutely nothing for me. Is there a chance you might find something worthwhile lurking here? Sure, anything's possible. I mean, the finale moves along at nice clip, there's some gunplay and dramatic music, the tension hits levels unseen earlier in the film, and the ending is sort of satisfying, but it's not nearly enough to remedy the pain from enduring a whole bunch of Not Much for the 90 minutes prior.
The DVD: a fine-looking 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo track and no extras.
Guilty. Return to sender.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lightning Entertainment
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R