Reclaim Review

Posted: September 19, 2014 in Action, Reviews, Thriller
Tags: , , , , , ,

ReclaimJohn Cusack is in the midst of one of the more fascinating contemporary Hollywood careers. At 48 years of age, Cusack has already appeared in over 70 motion pictures – often in the lead – covering an almost unfathomable range of genres. He has appeared in action films (Con Air and 2012), comedies (Hot Tub Time Machine and Better Off Dead), art house fare (The Paperboy and Bob Roberts), romcom (Say Anything), horror (1408), drama (The Butler), and satire (War). That list is hardly inclusive as it omits some of the more notable films featuring Cusack, including: Sixteen Candles, Broadcast News, Eight Men Out, The Player, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Thin Red Line, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, and Adaptation.

Of course, there have been some dogs as well, maybe a few too many in the last couple of years. In 2014, Cusack has veered between the unforgettable, appearing in David Cronenberg’s genre masterpiece, Maps to the Stars, and the unmemorable, last month’s train wreck known as The Prince.  Cusack’s latest work, Reclaim, comes just weeks before his next movie, Hard Drive, and, truth be told, this standard-fare melodramatic thriller is nothing special and will never make it onto a short list of the finest Cusack films. That said, Reclaim is a harmless diversion, made noteworthy by Cusack’s presence. While his is not the only solid performance in a film that also stars Ryan Phillippe and features two-time Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver, Cusack shines as the only true movie star.

Phillippe and Rachelle Lefevre play Steven and Shannon Meyer, an American couple who have come to Puerto Rico to finalize their adoption of a seven-year old Haitian girl, who was left orphaned by the Port-Au-Prince earthquake of 2010, an event which serves as the prologue for the film. The backstory of how the couple came to adopt is shown in a flashback that is meant to be tragic, but comes off as tiresome and trite. Weaver plays the expeditor for the adoption, and the first 20 minutes of the film plays out like a tourism commercial for a vacation in beautiful Puerto Rico, with the only odd vibe provided by Cusack, a fellow guest at the beach hotel who keeps running into the newly formed family.

One of Cusack’s greatest strengths as an actor is patience. He doesn’t rush his lines or his movements; his equalibrium is absolute, yet unsettling. Silence is a weapon for him; awkward pauses always play to his advantage. He flashes this gift in the early encounters, which gives him the upper hand in the relationship as it develops. Cusack is subtle enough that the viewer is not immediately sure if he will prove to be the couple’s savior or source of anguish in the ordeal to come. That ordeal begins with Shannon and Steve waking one morning to discover their daughter Nina missing from the hotel room.

The broadstrokes of what happens next are entirely predictable, and, too often, implausible. No matter how you feel about gun control, this is one movie that would been much better off without firearms. Anytime someone pulls out a gun in Reclaim, it dumbens the moment. (Yes, you are correct that there is no such word as “dumben,” and yet, it somehow perfectly describes the phenomenon.)  The chase scenes – whether on foot or by car – are too long by half, although the end of one on the edge of a cliff makes for a nice visual. Director Alan White helms his first feature since 2006, and he seems rusty. A key scene between Phillippe and Lefevre is captured in a wide shot that calls attention to the couple’s awkward body language and robs the moment of needed intimacy. Another scene has Lefevre breaking down as she walks along the street next to Phillippe in a long take that highlights her inability to convey her emotions credibly.

Director White also should have reined in Jandres Burgos, who overplays his role as chief henchman, Salo. Chief henchwoman Paoloa, (Veronica Faye Foo) fares better as long as the only weapons she’s flashing are her legs. Briana Roy as the orphan Nina is adorable in a role that calls for her to be just that, and Puerto Rico is beautiful as the setting, with a variety of locales on the island used to full effect. Yet, the treasure here is Cusack. His brief scene with Weaver toward the film’s end is a particular treat. But a good Cusack performance is like a bus. If you miss this one, another will be along in ten minutes.

Two stars.

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