DIRECTOR Suri Krishnamma WRITER Frank John Hughes STARS Michael Cudlitz; Melanie Griffith; Pruitt Taylor Vince SCREENING Today at 15.15
Michael Cudlitz turns in fine work here as security guard Jim, a loner working endless night shifts who spends his free time visiting the locations of killers. His latest trip puts him on the trail of serial arsonist Carl Marznap in the dark, dusty depths of California. While Marznap is long deceased, one feels that Jim is more than a pure observer, his unhealthy hobby (which he defends by protesting it’s no different from people visiting Ground Zero in New York) seeming more than just homage.
Jim is intense, capable of anything. Cudlitz (excellent in TV’s Southland) plays it perfectly, injecting more than a little Travis Bickle, particularly with his narrative voice-over. And while Bickle wanted to wash the filth from the streets, Jim wants to wash it from his own life, due to his own traumatising experiences.
Dark Tourist looks superb, photographed in an almost sepia tone, and director Suri Krishnamma keeps tension bubbling nicely; there’s an impending sense of violence that could happen at any time. But, it’s slow moving, which strangely works best as Cudlitz is either solo or conversing in his mind with Marznap.
Finally though, despite the fascinating themes of salvation and the darkness that all humans are capable of possessing, Dark Tourist starts to plod — a subplot involving a waitress played by Melanie Griffith bogs things down; it’s never really convincing that she is a possible saviour for Jim’s troubled soul and her lightness doesn’t balance well against Cudlitz’s intensity — and doesn’t completely develop. The script is laboured, never really examining said themes, and the descent into madness is a slow one. There is a good movie buried deep here, but it can’t find a way to surface. A singular performance then, rather than a complete piece.