Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Company You Keep (2013)

The company you keep, you put yourself above.  I'm on to you!  I still have a soft spot for Hurricane...

Not that the hair-band Hurricane has anything to do with The Company You Keep, the latest Robert Redford directed film, based off a Lem Dobbs screenplay, which was based off the (presumably boring) book of the same name by Neil Gordon.

I might have just played my hand with the previous paragraph, but that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the film.  It's boring.  The Company You Keep is one of those films where they've assembled a great cast of pros (it's well acted at least), then setup a what appears to be a nice thriller/mystery, only to have it play out extremely slowly, with each reveal having no real impact.  This, again, is compounded by the fact this poorly paced film is over two hours.  BROKEN RECORD!  Hey, who said that?  At first glance, when you see the people involved in making the film, and the great cast, you think it might be an early Oscar contender.  Unfortunately, that isn't what we got here.

The Company You Keep begins with Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) being arrested.  We learn that she was a former member of a radical group wanted for a bank robbery and murder of a bank guard nearly 30 years ago.  Local reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) investigates and finds that Sharon was about to turn herself in anyway, and through friends tried to get a local lawyer, Jim Grant (Redford), to take the case.  Grant wasn't interested in the case even though it seemed like something in his wheelhouse.  Shepard presses on, only to find that Grant was also involved in the radical group, and was a suspect in the same bank robbery.  Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler to tell you this.

Grant goes on the run, contacting estranged friends and family in the effort to find Mimi (Julie Christie), a former partner of Grant's.  We aren't sure exactly why Grant is so desperate to find her, but upon seeing that Grant is wanted by the police, she goes out on her own to find him.

This is where The Company You Keep let me down.  You've got all these threads going on with Grant and Mimi, then The Beef (that's what I call LaBeouf) investigating, and the FBI (led by Terrence Howard) hot on their trail, but there's never any urgency to it.  Plot threads and characters are just dropped without any resolution or given much development.  It felt like a TV series that was meant to stretched into a season long arc, but was streamlined to only be two or three episodes.  You might think that means it has a frenetic pace with all the things going on, yet we got the opposite.  It's so slow that I actually had to fight off falling asleep for much of the the last third of the film.  Plus, the conclusion is so anti-climactic that you're left wondering why you bothered sitting through it all.

I'm not sure if this was an issue of the book not translating well, or maybe having to condense too much of it to fit into a movie.  There isn't even an entry for the book or author on Wikipedia, so my research is limited.  From what I can see on Amazon, the book's synopsis seems to have a much different setup than how the movie was, so perhaps too much was changed for the sake of adapting it.  It's shame because I really like Lem Dobbs as a writer, but it looks like he really misses working with Steven Soderbergh (they've done at least three films together).  I don't even think Robert Redford did that bad of a job directing, as he did a good job with the actors, and managed to make it interesting enough in the first half.

It is really well acted though.  Redford is great, as well as Julie Christie.  As hard as I am on The Beef, I actually thought he had the right blend of arrogance, mixed with an honest drive to uncover the truth.  The supporting cast is fleshed out with actors like Stephen Root, Nick Nolte, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Sam Elliott and Brendan Gleeson.  When you have such notable actors in smaller roles, you tend to think their characters may be more significant to the actual story, and are disappointed when they aren't in it more or aren't fleshed out enough.  It's just a shame to not see these people get something meatier to work with.  It makes me wonder if Redford just called in a bunch of favors to fill out his cast, or the actors just really wanted to work with him.  Can't say I blame any of them though.

The Company You Keep is yet another well-acted film with a star studded cast, but unfortunately the story comes up way short with its slow pacing and disappointing resolution.  It's not a bad movie, but it is pretty forgettable.  I actually saw this over a week ago and forgot that I never got around to posting my review.  This is not something you need to rush out and see, and has rental written all over it.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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