The Bag Man (2014) / Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for violence, sexual content and language
Running Time: 108 min.

Cast: John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa, Robert De Niro, Crispin Glover, Kirk 'Sticky Fingaz' Jones, Dominic Purcell, Martin Klebba
Director: David Grovic
Screenplay: David Grovic, Paul Conway

Review published March 6, 2014

Watching the excruciating experience of The Bag Man, one can't help but be tempted to become the "bag man" by bagging on this movie.  Let's start off with a few bags at its expense, shall we?

- The Bag Man
is so bad, there was no need to attach a director; it is a film that wanted to shoot itself!
- The Bag Man
is so bad, that when the clean-up crew was told to remove the trash from the set each day, they kept throwing out the footage of this movie!
- The Bag Man
is so stupid, all of the actors flunked the screen test!
- The Bag Man
stinks so much, the toilets in all movie theaters it plays in won't stop flushing!
- The Bag Man
stinks so bad, the only other dis it truly deserves is dis-infectant!

The Bag Man
is yet another terrible, would-be noir thriller featuring John Cusack (Grand Piano, The Butler), who has been floundering in nearly straight-to-VOD caliber material for the last few years.  If he has any chance to come back to the forefront of movie actors again, it's not going to come from making films like this.  The same can practically be said for one of his co-stars, Robert De Niro (Grudge Match, American Hustle), who not only plays a terrible character in The Bag Man, but he's also terrible portraying him. One can only assume that most of the budget of this film came from securing their talent, as the rest of the movie feels low budget and schlocky, set nearly entirely in three basic, poorly lit locations coated in a dreadul, oversaturated color palette like something out of Dick Tracy or Batman and Robin.

Cusack plays Jack, a shady opportunist who is made an offer he can't refuse.  A criminal named Dragna (De Niro) wants to secure his services in order to commandeer the pickup of a medium-sized leather bag that Jack is not to view the contents of.  He meets danger right away, getting shot in the hand from an unknown assailant before finally arriving at a remote, seedy motel awaiting his payoff.  While there, he ends up somewhat begrudgingly assisting a prostitute-in-distress (and obvious femme fatale) named Rivka (Da Costa, Freerunner), who has trespassed into his room and may have seen the mysterious contents of the bag, putting both of their lives in jeopardy.  

Screenwriter David Grovic (Freerunner, Grave Mistake) takes his first turn as a director, and pretty much stinks up the proceedings as both.  The tone of the film, reportedly taken from an original screenplay by actor James Russo, would suggest a dark comedy, but problems immediately persist due to the lack of genuinely funny material to accompany the jokey vibe.  The first insult to the audience's ability to pay attention comes from the opening scene of Jack and Dragna having dinner, wherein the crime boss uses his dinner to lay out the plot of the film in the most simple of terms in a manner that would be overbearing as a lesson learned in kindergarten.

As we come to basically loathe these characters, there's no defined rooting interest in what happens, as the events of the film get increasingly sordid and distasteful for little apparent reason.  Grovic seems to want to make an edgy, Tarantino-esque, tongue-in-cheek endeavor, but fumbles miserably in setting the table for either shock or humor, and hoping the quality cast, who are all in full-ham mode, can elevate a script that is as undercooked as the bloody chunk of meat that Dragna is consuming from the film's opening scene.

About the only pleasant surprise to the film comes from the performance by the statuesque Brazilian model/actress Rebecca Da Costa as Rivka, in a role that she brings nuance to that is sorely lacking in much of the rest of the film, basically only used as plot motivation.  It's apparent that she takes her acting career seriously, even if the slumming big-name stars of the piece, frankly, do not.  Unfortunately, it's just not enough to spark life in a story that is dreadfully dead on arrival.  If you're wise, you too won't take a peek at what nonsense The Bag Man carries.

Qwipster's rating:

2014 Vince Leo