Monday, May 03, 2004

Blind Horizon

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 1 May 2004 at Somerville Theater #5 (Independant Film Festival of Boston 2004)

There was a point, about ten years ago, when it seemed like Val Kilmer was going to be a huge movie star. He was coming off The Doors and Tombstone, and had Batman Forever and Heat coming up. He's made about the same combination of good, bad, and interesting movies since then as most other actors, but it's a mystery to me why his career slowly sank until his movies are going direct to video or otherwise unnoticed. The same could be said about his co-star, Neve Campbell, although she never quite seemed to be quite the A-list draw Kilmer was. On the other side, Amy Smart has appeared in a few movies people have seen, and folks have liked her enough, but no-one yet trusts her with a lead role in, as they used to say, a major motion picture.

Blind Horizon is the kind of movie actors at those stages of their careers make hoping for the best. It's a paycheck; the movie itself is dark and mysterious enough to play film festivals but mainstream enough that it might be able to pop up in theaters during an otherwise slow week. When push comes to shove, it's neither clever nor grandiose enough to be much bigger than direct to video. In a few months people will see it next to where Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King would be and say, huh, I've liked Val Kilmer and since what I really want to see is out, this doesn't look too bad. It will rent but not sell, but maybe it will lead to something better.

It's an okay movie, not cheap-looking but maybe a little ham-fisted in the directing department with an unfocused screenplay. A pair of kids find a man with a bullet wound in the desert outside a small town in New Mexico; the smell of a nurse's cigarette apparently causes this man (Kilmer) to awake from his coma with amnesia but occasional flashes of memory. He becomes certain that he knew something about a plot to kill the President in this small town, which is absurd because as the Sheriff (Sam Shepard) says, it's little more than a wide spot in the road. Soon, a woman claiming to be his finacée (Campbell) appears and says his name is Frank Kavanaugh and he works for the IRS in Chicago. The sheriff smells something fishy, but can't quite figure out what.

Part of the problem is that there's no background on any of the characters. Some, like the sheriff and the nurse (Smart) are probably what they appear to be, but many of the rest are overly mysterious. Neve Campbell's character, for instance, isn't an interesting enough personality for us to wonder about her motivations, and a mysterious figure played by Faye Dunaway's intentions never become clear. There's also a subplot regarding the upcoming sheriff's election that never goes anywhere. The assassination plot is a silly Rube Goldberg thing that is relentlessly foreshadowed but which never really seems to work from either a practical or motivational stance. Performances are good, based on how little there is to work with. There is a good "middle-of-nowhere" feeling to the setting, although it seems that nobody ever knows as much as they should, given the circumstances.

Blind Horizon is basically competent, and doesn't feel like a waste of time. Send it back in time five years, when Kilmer and Campbell were bigger names, and it gets a theatrical release and probably does respectable mid-level business. Now, though, with their star power dimmed, there's not much reason to notice it.

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