The Million Dollar Hotel
review by Paula Nechak, 13 April 2001

I never thought I’d ever agree with Mel Gibson on anything, let alone his opinion on one of his own films. But by clipping the quip "boring as a dog’s ass" onto the collar of Wim Wenders’ latest misadventure, The Million Dollar Hotel, Gibson’s hit the bull’s eye. The aging Aussie heartthrob stars in the film, which is produced by Icon, his company banner and heck, I even admire him a bit because he’s cut off his own nose to spite his film’s face (and fate) by brave-heartedly bashing it. OK, so he retracted, or at least put the remark into some semblance of context after "story by" credited rocker - U2’s Bono – who thought up the murky mess (with writer Nicholas Klein), went ballistic over Gibson’s blurb about the unreleased final product.

But sure enough, The Million Dollar Hotel may wear the mantle of being the first Mel Gibson movie to go straight to DVD and video after a few under-whelming festival screenings, thereby proving the superstar’s prophecy to be true.

Indeed a dog’s ass may be far more stimulated than "The Million Dollar Hotel," which is as tedious as a blank canvas fobbed off as art, despite some prototypical Wenders mood and noirish shades and tones. It’s a flagrantly undernourished story idea with little originality of character or insight.

With a yellow flag of a cast that includes Jeremy Davies, Milla Jovovich, Amanda Plummer, Tim Roth, Harris Yulin, Donal Logue, Gloria Stuart, Julian Sands, Jimmy Smits, Peter Stormare, Bud Cort - and Gibson, wearing a body brace to keep his character’s scarred torso erect, the film is certain to screech into teeth-grating territory simply by virtue of such acquired-taste thespians.

But grate, predictably, they do, playing down-and-outers forced (by the injustice of the system and the inaccessibility of medical insurance) to hole up in a fleabag hotel on the seamy side of Los Angeles. And one (or more) of them holds the key to the recent murder/death of another million-dollar tenant.

Into this fray of despair, grime, woeful love, illness and secrets limps Detective Skinner (Gibson), an FBI agent intent upon closing the case in a weekend in order to join a fiancée already warming the sheets at some exotic locale. Skinner has been hired by Stanley Goldkiss (Yulin) to learn which of the sorrowful inhabitants has pushed his son, Izzy (an uncredited Tim Roth), from the neon-bathed roof that harbors their decaying, forsaken lives.

Key suspects include hyperactive Tom Tom (Davies), who is mourning for the love of the elusive Eloise (Jovovich) and Native American, Geronimo (Smits), who was the dead man’s roommate.

The screenplay dwells too-lovingly upon the idiosyncrasies of the characters, each of who is annoyingly full of tics, quirks and inner demons. And by never introducing us to the dead man, instead waiting until the film’s final moments to unveil the solution to the mediocre mystery that warranted his murder, we’re distanced from the requisite emotional involvement or connection to his demise.

This is a juvenile romance with the great unwashed, tightrope walking on the edge of self-destruction, eccentricity and obsession. It works in the autobiographical writings of Charles Bukowski because a profound understanding of the duality of human nature as well as humor sears his pages, but The Million Dollar Hotel is sloppy, an attempt at atmosphere and tone that neglects basic rules of form, structure, content and logic. It’s a good case in point for never again allowing a rock star, used to writing in succinct lyric rhyme, to try and translate that rhythm to the more intricate, demanding scope of the cinema. The blank space between the lines can’t be filled by Wenders’ trademark visual style and the result is a film that thuds with inertia. Its resume of clichéd, kooky, loveable losers, unscrupulous power players and preying media dogs make this a long stay at one deadly dull hotel.

Directed by:
Wim Wenders

Jeremy Davies
Milla Jovovich
Mel Gibson
Jimmy Smits
Peter Stormare
Amanda Plummer
Gloria Stuart

Written by:

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






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