'The Bag Man': It's a drag, man
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.
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