Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Air I Breathe: Grade C

The Air I Breathe (2008)
Kevin Bacon, Julie Delpy, Andy Garcia, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Emile Hirsch, Forest Whitaker; Co-writer and Director Jieho Lee.

Four mini-dramas are loosely connected in the style of Crash. Whitaker is a clerk who bets big on a horse that loses, leaving him indebted to a vicious shark (Garcia), so he does the only reasonable thing and robs a bank, but gets shot by SWAT. Garcia does a great hot-and-cold psychopath that channels Pacino. It is totally derivative but really a great imitation. Whitaker’s character is not well motivated but he gives a strong performance anyway. Fraser shows the best acting of the movie, and the best I have ever seen from him, as an emotionless debt collector for Garcia. Fraser gets glimpses of the immediate future so he knows when he is going to be attacked from behind, for example, very useful for a gangster. When his clairvoyance fails for the first time in his life, he becomes happy at his new freedom (a logic that escaped me), and falls in love with an emerging rock star (Gellar) who is “owned” by Garcia since her manager paid off his debt with the management contract. I’m no expert in contract law, but I don’t think that would be an enforceable agreement. Nevertheless, the girl is tyrannized by the evil Garcia, and Fraser can only protect her for a little while. Meanwhile, Bacon is a physician with a patient who requires an immediate transfusion but who has a rare blood type. He just happens to overhear a television interview with the rock star who just happens to reveal that she has that blood type! Rather than make a phone call, Bacon rushes downtown (conveniently same town, and staying nearby), to accost her in the street, which leads, predictably, to him being beaten up by her bodyguards. Somehow that unpleasantness is resolved (not shown in the movie), and the patient is saved. We don’t know what happens to Garcia.

It is difficult to understand what the writers were trying to achieve with these weak-to-ridiculous stories, or with the overused format of linking stories through common characters, no matter how implausible the linkages. What saves the movie from total disaster are strong performances by Garcia, Whitaker, and especially, Fraser.

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