A stretch limo. A haircut. Lots of money.
David Cronenberg is a stylistically elusive creature. From VHS nasty Videodrome to London gangster flick Eastern Promises, and to the more recent understated biopic A Dangerous Method, his directorial efforts have led him to being the go-to man for bizarre and compelling projects. Cosmopolis is one more in a long line.
Robert Pattinson stars as Eric Packer, a billionaire playboy who rides across town in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut. He encounters a myriad of different characters, all bringing their own humourous, educating and sometimes downright ominous insights on the state, nay, the power, of money in the modern world. It all sounds like a drag, and except for a handful of comedic or prophetic moments, that's exactly what it is.
Thanks to a screenplay that's lifted practically unchanged from its source novel, the movie suffers from jarringly literal dialogue which would be suited for the perfect design inherent in prose, but not for the looser, more frivolent action that a cinema screen suggests. Most of the contrived drama unfolds within the claustrophobic confines of Eric's stretch, and while this suits the high-blooded tension of Rear Window or even Buried, plain-faced speechifying about money isn't particularly gripping. However, there is a superb final scene between Pattinson and Paul Giamitti, an artistic and tense tété-a-tété of morals and motivations including a memorable (if ruined by its inclusion in the trailer) bit of self mutilation. If only the rest of the movie were like this, it would certainly benefit.
Still, Pattinson gives a terrific turn as the spoiled, empty-hearted but energetic Packer, and it's great seeing him getting his teeth into (ahem) something a bit more worth his time. And Cosmopolis is still an important statement of our times; it's just difficult to understand what that statement is.
- Gary Green