Saturday, August 30, 2014
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'The Bag Man': It's a drag, man

John Cusack is the bag man; the flick also features a soliloquizing Robert De Niro.
John Cusack is the bag man; the flick also features a soliloquizing Robert De Niro.
About the movie
The Bag Man
Suspense, Thriller
MPAA rating:
for violence, sexual content and language.
Running time:
Release date:
John Cusack; Robert De Niro; Theodus Crane; Celesta Hodge; Martin Klebba; Dominic Purcell; Rebecca Da Costa; David Shumbris; Sticky Fingaz; Crispin Glover
Directed by:
David Grovic
On the web:
The Bag Man Official Site


Somebody tell John Cusack to stay out of motels and hotels. In 1408, he played a guy who checks into a haunted room, and all hell breaks loose.

In The Bag Man, it's a fleabag motor inn with No. 13 on the door. You can tell it's not exactly the Four Seasons by the on again/off again neon sign, and by the guy in the wheelchair behind the office counter: It's Crispin Glover, who can make "I need an imprint of your credit card" sound like a statement of utter madness.

Until the moment when Robert De Niro punches actress Celesta Hodge in the face, The Bag Man was looking mildly diverting - a pastiche of Lynch and Tarantino, with a nod to Psycho and a lot of noir. Cusack has the title role, a cool killer hired by the sinister, silver-haired De Niro character. It's one of the latter actor's hand-me-the-paycheck jobs, requiring him to pummel blonds, soliloquize about trust, and say the words tropisms and stimuli. He is paying Cusack's Jack to pick up a bag and hole up in this motel - and whatever Jack does, do not look inside the bag.

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  • Of course, there is a femme fatale - first seen in streetwalker couture, accessorized with blue wig and red spiked heels. She is played by the very tall Rebecca Da Costa, who is from Brazil and was a model and delivers her lines in tall, Brazilian, model-y ways.

    A Russian dwarf, a pimp with an eyepatch, and a pair of local law enforcement officers show up - not all at once, but all brandishing weapons and smelling of menace.

    The Bag Man is a first feature by David Grovic, who directs and also cowrote the screenplay, which has a provenance that goes back to the actor James Russo and the Swiss Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz. Von Franz's connection may or may not explain why the movie references Hermann Hesse, or why De Niro says "tropisms."

    Also of note: A Nick Drake song is criminally misused.

    And whatever you do, do not look inside the bag.


    The Bag Man *1/2 (Out of four stars)

    Directed by David Grovic. With John Cusack, Robert De Niro, and Rebecca Da Costa. Distributed by Cinedigm.

    Running time: 1 hour, 48 mins.

    Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity, adult themes)

    Playing at: AMC Neshaminy





    Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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