New York City, not-too-distant-future: Eric Packer, a 28 year-old finance golden boy dreaming of living in a civilization ahead of this one, watches a dark ...
Rating: R for some strong sexual content including graphic nudity, violence and language
Length: 105 minutes
Released: August 17, 2012 NY/LA
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Don DeLillo, David Cronenberg
Director David Cronenberg has nothing to prove. From his early successes in horror and sci fi in the 1970s to his mature and haunting excursions into the human psyche from the 1990s on, he has created a singular career while accumulating fans and accolades.
Robert Pattinson, conversely, still has several benchmarks to achieve. He's far better known for his portrayal of Edward Cullen in the "Twilight" films and related appearances on gossip-rag covers than he is for any other roles. His ventures beyond the world of the undead have garnered him mostly faint praise.
So the pressure of "Cosmopolis" seems to be on Pattinson, cast in the lead as Eric Packer, a 28-year-old Wall Street genius whose skill lies in seeing what others don't. Despite Pattinson's constant screen presence, audiences will have a hard time seeing anything remarkable.
"Cosmopolis" doesn't require the actor to attempt any impressive stunts or seduce impressionable women on (or off) the screen. Adapted from Don DeLillo's 2003 novel, which took inspiration from James Joyce's "Ulysses," the film follows Eric throughout one day as he rides in his ridiculously teched-out white stretch limousine across Manhattan to get a haircut.
This isn't an ordinary day. A presidential motorcade is jamming traffic from one end, while a Sufi rap star's funeral procession brings it to a near-stall from another. Eric keeps tabs on his gamble against the yuan as anti-capitalist protesters fill the streets and sidewalks all around, tossing dead rats with abandon.
Eric's security chief, Torval (Kevin Durand), is on high alert, especially as updates from "the Complex" convey the disturbing news that there is a "credible threat" to Eric's life from an unknown, would-be attacker.
Cronenberg's screenplay is densely verbose, but it's more alternating monologues than dialogues. The characters all seem more interested in talking than in listening.
Eric is presented as a modern-day Howard Hughes. He's not a hermit, but he's extremely paranoid and obsessed with his health, to the point of having daily medical check-ups — in the limo.
He's obsessed with a lot of things, or in owning things. Aside from money, those include art, aircraft and, it seems, people. There's quite a parade through the limo, though occasionally Eric steps out for a meal or sex.
Cronenberg returns to the remoteness that marked his films prior to "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises." Even so, "Cosmopolis" might work as a wry commentary on capitalist excess if Pattinson had a stronger presence. He's not believable enough as a genius or a villain to make Eric a true force. Of the sex scenes, the one with the most intensity shouldn't even be considered one.
Nearly everyone who interacts with Eric makes a more lasting impression. The cast includes such solid veterans as Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti and up-and-comers like Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel and Philip Nozuka.
The film looks good, and its quirkiness raises hopes for top-shelf Cronenberg. Ultimately, unfortunately, viewers likely will feel that they've been taken for a ride.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!