So here’s the premise. It sounds great.
Christian Longo is a man on the run. He’s also on the FBI’s most wanted. For murdering his wife and three children. When arrested in Mexico, it is revealed he has been using an alias, that of Mike Finkel, famed and disgraced (for creating composite characters) New York Times journalist. When the real Finkel gets word, he sees an opportunity to resurrect his tarnished career and decides to investigate this stranger stealing his identity. A book deal hovers deliciously on the horizon. So begins, True Story.
And here’s the the truth behind the premise and what director Rupert Goold does with it.
In reality, Longo, a seemingly and almost immediately unlikeable person, only really used Finkel’s name in passing. To hook up with a tourist. That’s really where the connection begins and ends. He probably used the name for, I’ll be generous here, a week let’s say. Tops. And he didn’t do anything of interest with it either. He just partied and got laid in Cancun. True Story feeds off this ‘connection.’ It’s the essential fulcrum here, the hook, to match killer to journalist (played by best buds James Franco and Jonah Hill respectively). But it’s a weak fulcrum. So very weak.
Hill and Franco have proved themselves in all manner of roles, from the very serious and political (127 Hours, Milk) to the sports drama (Moneyball) to the satire (The Interview) and to the Scorsese epic (The Wolf of Wall Street). So point proven, when push comes to shove, the guys can do a great job. But here, under Goold’s direction, a man at the helm of his first feature film, the CVs are thrown out the window along with their souls and what we have here are two very flat, bored looking characters being bored talking flatly, quietly and supposedly riffing off one another in some sort of cat and mouse Dead Man Walking gameplay. But other than a few mildly interesting scenes to do with court procedural stuff and evidence, there’s nothing here. Much like The Wolfpack I recently reviewed, it feels like a great premise squandered. Or maybe the idea behind the book (or maybe just the whole book?) isn’t very good and leans too much on that fulcrum, on that one seed of chance that never really germinates.
And here’s the ending.
The ending is not a surprise. It’s obvious. You know it in your heart and your head from the start. When everything on screen supposedly comes tumbling down, that courtroom moment you know so well, I didn’t care. And you won’t either. Because it too, like everything else here, is flat, so flat and dull, not like a desert horizon which shimmers and glistens, atoms of sand rolling toward and away from you, a sun blistering, shades of sky rolling and dictating the shadows of earth, but more like an ice and snow horizon many feet deep; listless and cold, hard and uninviting, colourless, formless.
An average mildly entertaining fare.