Coppola allows for the strangeness in these people’s lives. She doesn’t try to “understand” them in any conventional sense. Nor does she try to fit herself into the Tokyo landscape; the movie, which was shot by Lance Acord in lustrous nocturnal tones, presents Japan as an outsider might see it, without apology. The night-worlds both within the hotel and without are equally odd and forbidding. Everything seems hushed—suspended in time—and yet there is always the sense of violence about to break loose. In Japan, the most extreme delicacy goes hand in hand with garishness, and Coppola offers up both for our delectation. It’s a heady, hallucinatory combo. Bob and Charlotte would be dazed even if they got as much sleep as Rip Van Winkle.
As Roy, the chain-smoking, obsessive-compulsive con man with a full range of tics in Matchstick Men, Nicolas Cage has what might charitably be called the ultimate Nicolas Cage role. He’s an actor who likes to come apart on-camera, and Roy’s many phobias provide him with an ample arsenal. The problem is, director Ridley Scott has a few tics of his own. We never get the full effect of Cage’s herky-jerk performance because Scott is busy tricking up the action with shock cuts and other distracting bits of business. At times, it’s like watching a glitzy TV commercial for ADD.
Roy likes to think of himself as a con artist, but he’s strictly a small-timer. To his horror, and wary delight, his world opens up when the 14-year-old daughter he never knew (Alison Lohman) suddenly appears and wants to be a grifter, too. Their scenes together have a Paper Moon–ish appeal, but it’s all a bit bumptious and heartwarming, even when the inevitable triple-cross occurs. This movie also made me think of Monk, the difference being that Roy, unlike Tony Shalhoub’s soulful, hyperphobic investigator, is a species of clown. His turmoil is on display for its photogenic qualities— which is perhaps what attracted Ridley Scott to the project in the first place. The movie is moderately enjoyable, but it also makes you feel conned: It offers up a disturbing protagonist and then substitutes cuteness for character.
Cory Yuen’s So Close is a kind of Hong Kong martial-arts variation on the Charlie’s Angels movies, only better. The plot has something to do with big bad computer magnates and cyber-counterforces, but mostly it’s just an excuse to watch three dazzling ladies, Shu Qi, Zhao Wei, and Karen Mok, spin and whirl and swoop. Movie-fight fans will not want to miss this, but the ABT should take a look, too.