Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 13 November 2008
- Written by Administrator
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Pack your things; we’re heading off on another road trip. Oops! Did I give something away? Unfortunately, I must report that what you think will happen, does, on this uninspired cross-country romp featuring three Iraq War servicemen; one’s out for good, two have thirty-day leaves and must return, despite injuries. Sgt. T.K. Poole (Michael Peña) has shrapnel in his groin, rendering it temporarily out of order. Pvt. Colee Dunn (Rachel McAdams) has been shot in the leg and walks with a subtly stiff gate. Sgt. Fred Cheever (Tim Robbins) was wounded when a port-o-john fell on him, injuring his back, and getting him discharged back to the States.
After a flight home from Germany, during which the three are introduced to each other, travel conditions are snagged by a blackout and Cheever rents a car from New York to St. Louis, the other two tagging along. Colee is toting a guitar that belonged to her now deceased friend intent on returning it to his parents in Las Vegas. T.K is making his way to the West Coast to visit his girlfriend and try to explain why he is sexually out of commission. Cheever is anxious to see his wife and son after two years abroad.
The trio set about becoming more acquainted and it’s quickly established that Colee is a dimwit with anger management problems and poor impulse control. A fight with T.K. and another skirmish with civilians after a visit to a bar confirm this. TK has a chip on his shoulder and likes to brood, but it’s hard to maintain a tough-guy façade when your actual manhood heads south without your permission. Only Cheever is serene and sure of himself. The three are not above exploiting their military status to take advantage of expedient car rentals and assistance from grateful civilians, who answer each thank you with a “No, thank YOU.”
Cheever arrives home to a cold, apathetic wife who announces that she wants a divorce. His son reports that he's been accepted to Stanford on a partial scholarship but needs $20,000 within three weeks or he'll lose his spot. Seems Cheever is still in the line of fire even after leaving the war zone.
Devastated, he drives off to Las Vegas by way of Denver, his soldier pals accompanying him, worried about his state of mind. Now comes the point where the screenplay gods say, “Let the contrivances begin.” The crew visit a church following dim bulb Colee’s lead and manage to get invited to a millionaire’s birthday party where Cheever gets propositioned (and accepts) a bedroom rendezvous which doesn’t take into account the woman’s kinky husband until he attempts to join them.
Then there’s the RV full of hookers eager to help with T.K.’s plumbing problem; the five-minute tornado that doesn’t damage, move, or even scratch the car, but serves to have T.K. hold Colee and “spring to life” south of the border, so to speak. The $20,000 that Cheever’s son needs is almost the exact amount of money that the classic guitar Colee schleps around is worth. Well whaddaya know? The tone of the film is uneven, weaving in and out of serious situations followed by slapstick predicaments.
Each character has a back-story which they relate with details that will come into play as the plot unfolds (or unrolls in this case). The revelatory impact of these tales comes much later and without the intended effect of deep introspection and eventual epiphany.
Tim Robbins’ Cheever is the father figure of the bunch, rattled only when his once- stable home life dissipates. He delivers the most believable performance as his altered situation sinks into his psyche and his decision-making process. Peña is the brooding chauvinist who must re-evaluate his relationship and his manhood as mile after transforming mile passes by. I didn’t buy his about-face at all.
Rachel McAdams portrays a female Forrest Gump-like character who speaks her juvenile lines as if lobotomized. Hopefully, she’s not meant to be an example of the typical Army recruit; they get to carry real guns. “Simple-minded” solely as a plot device just doesn’t cut it, but is a convenient way to get characters to utter outrageous and embarrassing one-liners in public. Colee’s injury is not to the head, so the insulting message here is that it must be a female thing.
Writer/Director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) is transparent in his quest for ultra-contrived stops on the elongated field trip his characters take. Co-writer Dirk Wittenborn (Fierce People) must share part of the blame for the implausible twists and turns that are supposed to reunite and bond the characters throughout their journey.
A small twist at film’s end will offer something to ponder, at least, but it seems to take an awfully long time to reach that point, with little insight and even less payoff. Unfortunately, the title does not refer to the audience who must sit through such tedium.