If Today You're Here and Tomorrow You're Gone, Judge Bill Gibron wonders what Yesterday offers.
Yeah, but we're stuck here today, watching this movie.
Charlie Rankin (Stephen Dorff, Blade) is just about to be released from prison when he receives a note from "Buddha" (Willem Dafoe, Antichrist), his friend and former mentor. In the message is instructions for a hit that has to be completed. Feeling compelled to help the man who looked after him in the slammer, he agrees. After earning his freedom, Charlie is adrift, following the letter's directions and finding refuge along the fringes. With a growing sense of paranoia and a limited grasp on reality, he finds his pursuit sidetracked by a beautiful working girl named Florence Jean (Michelle Monaghan, Gone Baby Gone). As they fall into a relationship, Charlie begins to struggle with his new profession. A failure leads to even more trouble, with Buddha making sure our angst-driven antihero understands the consequences of not completing the job.
By their very nature, movies are fiction. Even when taking on true stories, they must recreate reality, unless we are dealing with documentaries, and even then, few fact films can present a 100% accurate, as-it-is-happening experience. So most cinematic experiences revolve around the careful combination of truth and talent, dramatic license and literal interpretation. Thus we have the major problem plaguing Tomorrow You're Gone. See, director David Jacobson (Down in the Valley) offers up a protagonist who is incapable of completely expressing himself. He's ambiguous and addled to a royal fault. Then the filmmaker, following a God-awful script from original source material novelist Matthew F. Jones, decides he wants to cheat a bit more. He hints, more than once, that our lead is lost in a world of his own, that what he sees and experiences could very well be just part of a psychosis brought on by years of imprisonment. He may not be nuts, but his perception is sure skewed.
And so we are left with an infuriated guessing game where nothing is spelled out and everything is internalized and inferred. Take the relationship between Charlie and Florence Jane. Is she real? Is she a set-up? Why is her existence so mysterious? If it's not meant to be, why mention her work in porn? Is this all Charlie's fantasy? A fraud perpetrated by Buddha and the boys? Go ahead-keep asking. Jacobson and Jones have zero responses. What about Charlie himself? Why is he a hitman? Why does he work for Buddha? What's with all the hints about his horrible childhood? Why is nothing in this movie spelled out in ways that a viewer can use as part of his or her attempted amusement? Jeez! Now, if any of this was handled in a fashion that seemed familiar, like the fever dreams of David Lynch or the reference-heavy homages of Quentin Tarantino, we might be able to tolerate the lack of clarity. But Jacobson is a long ways from those two auteurs. His efforts cause more discomfort than existential epiphanies.
This all leaves the cast to contain the damage, and they just can't. Dorff is dull, Dafoe is underused, and Monaghan is merely masquerading as a character here. She's so empty and vacant that she's like a financially strapped Florida subdivision where a moldy old model home sits alone. Hoping to get by solely on atmosphere, Jacobson drains the movie of drama by allowing Jones' joke of a screenplay to serve as the only insight into this walking wounded world. Instead of playing up the possibility that Charlie is just bonkers, the movie skids around the subject. Similarly, when Dafoe defiantly demands his employee fix his mistake, it has none of the seriousness or gravitas such an order should have. It's as if Tomorrow, You're Gone couldn't connect with the elements that make up a successful film. Instead, it decided to go through the motions and hope sense memory and a bit of cinematic sleight of hand would help. It doesn't, not by a long shot.
As for the tech specs, Tomorrow You're Gone looks and sounds pretty good. The 1080p AVC-encode is excellent, the 2.36:1 image shimmering with a kind of dulled digital polish. This is not a very colorful film, but the transfer takes full advantage of what Jacobson and his cinematographer, Michael Fimognari have to offer. As for the sound, the situation is fairly similar. The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 track provides a nice level of ambience, distance noises and sonic cues suggesting location and circumstance. The dialogue is easily discernible and the various musical elements are well represented. Sadly, there is no added content here. Just some preview trailers for titles offered by the same DVD/Blu-ray distributor.
Some might find a thread of decency woven throughout this otherwise strong waste of time. Whatever it's minor enjoyments, Tomorrow You're Gone is a cautionary tale of what can happen when you leave too much (or in this case, everything) to the audience's imagination. The result is rebellion, and then rejection.
Guilty. Full of minor sound and fury, definitely signifying nothing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
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