Silver City

October, 2004, Drama

Directed by:John Sayles

Starring:Danny Huston, Chris Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss, and Maria Bello

Writer/director John Sayles, (Sunshine State, Matewan, Passion Fish, Lone Star) may just be the single most important voice in contemporary independent American film and the prospect of seeing his satiric take on the current state of the nation’s politics should have been a real treat. What a stunning disappointment then, so report that Silver City’s a poorly organized, amateurish and ultimately boring exercise in sophomoric film-making. John, what the hell happened?

Academy Award winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation, Seabiscut, Bourne Supremacy) one of Sayle's favorite leading men, plays Dickie Pilager in this movie--a political dim bulb being staged-managed in the race for the governorship of Colorado. While fly-casting for an environmental ad to be used as part of his television campaign, Pilager snags a corpse, prompting his Karl Rove-ian handler Chuck Raven, (Richard Dreyfuss) to hire private investigator Danny O'Brien, (Danny Huston) to make sure any negative fallout doesn't settle on the candidate's sholders. This leads O'Brien into a series of encounters with Pilager's family, friends and backers, all played by familiar Hollywood faces, (Kris Kristofferson, Daryl Hannah, Miguel Ferrer) who stonewall O'Brien so thoroughly that instead of pursuing his damage control assignment for Pillager, he decides to solve the mystery of the floater so inopportunely snagged by the candidate. Is it all part of a cover-up manipulated by calculating backers of a candidate who's intentionally made to represent George W? Will the truth damage Pillager's chances in the election? After suffering the director's self-indulgent carping about the low level to which the political process has sunk in America, will anyone in the audience care?

Sayles usually picks important but previously untouched topics, (Men With Guns, Matewan) and casts his films with often unknown but shrewdly chosen actors. In building this movie on O'Brien, Sayles deflects his audience away from his principal target (the role of special interests in our political process) and onto a conventional melodrama that can work only if Huston successfully invests his shamus with credibility and charm. Angelica's half brother lacks both; with a string of bit parts in awful movies to his credit, (The Bacchae, Torture TV, Spanish Fly) Huston lumbers through this mess with a banal grin set on his face that resembles a flesh-colored Pillsbury Doughboy. Simply put, he stinks-- and so does the movie.

Despite solid performances from Cooper, Hannah, Ferrer and especially Dreyfuss, Silver City is doomed by the pedantic, self-righteous tone of Sayles script and the high-school amateurism of Huston as leading man. 

The Verdict? If you must see this, save it for the next Lenten season--it'll work perfectly as a form of penance.

Jake's Takes comments powered by Disqus