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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Related . . .
This movie is for Wim Wenders fans and a little less so for moviegoers who love breath-taking images of the American West, with an ironic sense of how the real- and movie-West often contradict each other. Most of the film's themes come together in the character of Howard Spence (Sam Shepard), a man from a ranch in Nevada who's also had a career as a cowboy movie star. His...
Published on August 14, 2006 by Ronald Scheer

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars YOU CAN NEVER COME HOME
Combining two renaissance men like Sam Shepard (THE RIGHT STUFF, 1983) and Wim Wenders (director of PARIS, TEXAS which also starred Shepard) could seem like a golden film opportunity. I'd heard quite a bit of buzz about DON'T COME KNOCKING before its release and was pretty excited to finally sit down and watch it.

The story is about Howard Spence (Shepard), a...
Published on August 18, 2006 by B. Merritt


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Related . . ., August 14, 2006
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
This movie is for Wim Wenders fans and a little less so for moviegoers who love breath-taking images of the American West, with an ironic sense of how the real- and movie-West often contradict each other. Most of the film's themes come together in the character of Howard Spence (Sam Shepard), a man from a ranch in Nevada who's also had a career as a cowboy movie star. His playboy carelessness (drugs, alcohol, affairs, children he's fathered and doesn't know of) is a match for the reckless abuse of the land itself, the John Ford-like setting of southern Utah where his current movie is being shot contrasting with the unreal glitter of gambling casinos in Elko and the devastated city of Butte, where the vast open pit of what was once the Anaconda copper mine is now filling with toxic ground water.

For viewers a little puzzled by this rather loosely constructed and long-winded film, the DVD commentary by Wenders is a richly informative discussion of his intentions with the film along with anecdotes about making it (scenes created on the spot, the influence of painter Edward Hopper, also the story behind the final image of the film). Wenders' explanation of how he and Shepard wrote the film together and made it over a period of five years do much to account for its somewhat rambling structure.

The performances by the seasoned actors are great, including Jessica Lange (who would have remained far more beautiful and expressive without a facelift) flying into an unexpected rage in her last scene with a stunned Shepard and actually dislocating her shoulder as she hits him with a big handbag. However, it was harder for this viewer to wax as enthusiastic as Wenders about his younger actors, who seemed often vague about who and what they were supposed to be.

Shepard's usual themes are here - about family relationships and the dislocations between fathers and their children. The theatricality of his imagination comes through in long monologues and a funeral urn as an unfortunate stage prop. But Sam himself is wonderful to watch in this his own creation, and you hang on to the end waiting for the illumination that his playwright's mind is seeking in its journey across interior and exterior landscapes.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars YOU CAN NEVER COME HOME, August 18, 2006
By 
B. Merritt "filmreviewstew.com" (WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
Combining two renaissance men like Sam Shepard (THE RIGHT STUFF, 1983) and Wim Wenders (director of PARIS, TEXAS which also starred Shepard) could seem like a golden film opportunity. I'd heard quite a bit of buzz about DON'T COME KNOCKING before its release and was pretty excited to finally sit down and watch it.

The story is about Howard Spence (Shepard), a cowboy movie star who's approaching the downside of his aging career. At 60, Howard still lives the life of a starling; he drinks, drugs and sexes himself into oblivion nightly. But (for unknown reasons) he has a bad night on the set of a lame film and decides to flee the production in hopes of finding what lay for him beyond the camera. His history is as scattered as his drug-induced years of debauchery and Howard quickly discovers that he has children in the world. Two children. He visits his mother (Eva Marie Sant, NORTH BY NORTHWEST) in Elko, Nevada and she tells him of a woman who'd called years before claiming to be the mother of his son. At first Howard doesn't believe it, but recollections filter in and he goes in search of his kids. But he also has to evade a bounty hunter named Sutter (Tim Roth, PULP FICTION) who was hired by the film studio to get Howard back to the movie he'd abandoned.

Both of Howard's kids' are now adults living lives of their own. We're first introduced to Sky (Sarah Polley, DAWN OF THE DEAD, 2004) who just cremated her mother. She's a withdrawn and quiet woman who easily picks up on who her father is when she sees him lurking around Butte, Montana. The second adult kid is Earl (Gabriel Mann, THE BOURNE IDENTITY), a modern blues singer with a chip the size of a boulder resting on him. His mother, Doreen (Jessica Lange, ROB ROY), tries to ease the news of his father's arrival but is too late. Twenty years of fatherlessness flares, and Howard and he nearly come to blows.

As Howard tries to understand life (his own) he constantly gets knocked around. Those who carry his bloodline want nothing to do with him, indicating to Howard that he should simply return to the film set. When the bounty hunter catches up with him, it's little surprise that Howard puts up no resistance.

An alternate title for the film might've been "You Can Never Come Home" because that is its basic message. Although we're not privy to Howard's thoughts, we can assume that since he's coming to the end of his acting career and his life, he's looking for something meaningful to justify his existence. Of course, children are the ultimate justification, but when they reject you, what's left?

The color schemes and filming are visually stunning, but certain scene-to-scene edits were herky-jerky and some embittered relationships felt forced (most notably that of Howard and his son, Earl). Jessica Lange was flawless, though. She's such a fantastic actress. Sam Shepard did an "okay" job with an interesting script but I felt little (if any) emotional weight from his character.

A big problem with the film was that, on one definitive level, it's a Hollywood flick about Hollywood people. The self-importance of actors and actresses has never appealed to me and this might bother quite a few viewers. But tying it in with those of a shattered family dynamic made the movie easier to swallow.

Still, this is an interesting indie film that surpasses some of the trite junk currently gracing the silver screen.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep On "Knocking", December 30, 2006
By 
Alex Udvary (chicago, il United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
"Don't Come Knocking" was something of an unexpected treat for me. I remember when the film opened in Chicago, and the awful reviews it got and the lack of public support, but I wanted to see it anyway. And before you knew it, it was out of theatres.

It's been a strage year for movies. I've found many times I'm on the outside of public opinion. I actually liked "All the King's Men" and I even liked "The Black Dahlia". I'm just not influenced by public opinion. I like what I like and the masses aren't going to change my mind.

"Don't Come Knocking" is the kind of film I love to watch. It's a self-discovery road picture. Going back to Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries", "The Browning Version" and even the more recent "About Schmidt" these kinds of films appeal to me.

The reason is because I find the topic universal. We all have regrets in our lives. We all wish at times that we can go back in time and rectify past situations. Now with some wisdom on our side perhaps we would respond to problems differently.

In "Don't Come Knocking" Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) is going through such a moment in his life. He was once a famous actor in westerns who is now a washed up has-been who gets by on memories of the past.

While on the set of his lastest film, a truly corny cliche western film, where characters kiss and then ride off into the sunset (!), Howard decides to pick up and leave. He sneaks off the set and makes his way back home.

Howard decides to go visit his mother (Eva Marie Saint) whom he hasn't seen for thirty years. It is there he learns he has a child. From who he doesn't know. How old the child is, he also doesn't know. His mother just casually blurted it out.

So from one family reunion to another Howard sets out to find the family he never knew about.

It turns out the woman was Doreen (Jessica Lange) and they had a son, Earl (Gabriel Mann). But there's also a stranger (Sarah Polley) who has come to town to find a resting place for her mother's ashes.

The film was directed by Wim Wenders and written by Sam Shepard. The two worked together on "Paris, Texas" and many see this film as a sequel. Because of that, most critics damned the movie because it wasn't "Paris, Texas".

I'm actually not very familar with Wenders' work. I've only seen "The End of Violence", "Buena Vista Social Club" and "Beyond the Clouds" (he co-directed the film with the great Antonioni). Wenders though is probably best known for the film "Wings of Desire" with was remade as "City of Angels" with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.

But perhaps my youth and inexperience in Wenders work is what saved me. I can't compare the film to his others. I didn't walk in with high expectations. I let the story move at its own pace and carry me along. Because of this the film managed to catch me off guard and really speak to me. It's one of the best films of 2006 and no one saw it.

Bottom-line: This Wim Wenders film is one of the best of the year! A wonderful journey look at how if we are given a second chance in life we can correct our mistakes.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars totally satisfying, August 28, 2006
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
Naysayers, I found this movie totally enchanting and didn't want it to end. Excellent acting by the reliable Jessica Lange and Sarah Polley. This movie wasn't meant to take home 15 oscars - it was a whimsical, hilarious, refreshing, poignant, indie character study that hit on just about all cylinders. The cinimatography, the dialog, the pacing, the scenery, and most of the acting were all first rate.

Howard was a putz - probably not unsimilar to many Hollywood actors young and old. Did you expect him to become enlightened by the end of the film? He stayed in character though he tried, squeezing Sky's hand gently. His children reaped the rewards when they came to terms with his shortcomings finding themselves in the process.

More people need to see this film.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "I just want to be related to someone,", August 10, 2006
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
Don't Come Knocking is such a visually beautiful film and it's also superbly acted by Sam Shepard and the formidable Jessica Lange - complete with plastic surgery - but dramatically the film is rather inert and ultimately suffers from a sort of portentous and stodgy directorial style, which hampers what could have been a very fine film.

Directed by Wim Wenders, Don't Come Knocking is Largely set in Montana, and the scenery is absolutely stunning. Often occupying more than half the screen, the sky is like a character in the movie, which has a bright, distinct and totally vibrant look and ends up being the most interesting character in the film.

The movie stars Sam Shepard as a washed-up aging movie star Howard Spence. We first meet him just as he's disappeared from the set of a western in which he is starring. A 60-year-old drug- and alcohol-abusing playboy, Howard heads for home in Elko, Nev., a place he hasn't been in 30 years. We aren't quite sure why he's going there, we can only assume that he's having some kind of mid-life crisis.

Of course, the film is left in turmoil, but Howard doesn't care, he's like a little boy who is off exploring and he's oblivious to the chaos that he's causing. A no-nonsense representative of the bond company who is insuring the movie Sutter (Tim Roth) swoops in by helicopter and begins tracking the badly behaved cowboy.

While in Elko, Howard's reunion with his elderly mother (Eva Marie Saint) is cut short by the revelation that he has a twenty something son from a one night stand on a film shoot in Butte, Montana, so off Howard goes, to reconnect with his past. Meanwhile, a young woman named Sky (Sarah Polley) arrives in Butte carrying an urn with her recently deceased mother's ashes. Howard and Sky intersect at the restaurant run by Howard's old flame, Doreen (Jessica Lange) who is rather amused that Howard has turned up after all these years.

At a nightclub he points out his son (Gabriel Mann), who has turned into a sort of moody musician Goth, and he's is not eager to embrace his new-found father. By far the most interesting person in the film is Doreen and kudos must go to Lange - who I still think is America's greatest living screen actress - as she brings Doreen's mixture of wistfulness and naughty giggling to life.

Don't Come Knocking suffers from being a bit in love with itself. True, the visual impact of the film is unarguable and the deserted streets of Butte look both stunning and haunted - nicely rendered by cinematographer Franz Lustig - deeply reflecting Wenders' own penchant for an American West etched with loneliness.

But the movie trundles along, almost grinding to a halt in the second act where it becomes mired in the mud of disconcerted family business, and the resolution is quite predicable. It's as though the story is desperately trying to work up enough momentum to go somewhere, but the film just never seems to budge.

Still, it's refreshing to see the talented Sam Shepard acting again - and playing a leading man, even though the character is a bit of a selfish oaf. And it's also a treat to see him acting with Lange, his wife. For Howard, life as a movie star has been one of irresponsibility and fun; fatherhood has been a mystery and when he confronts its reality, he is just as dumbstruck as he ever was.

It's far easier for the western loner to skip town and never look back, and Shepard does a fine job of bringing this almost childlike man to life with all his dysfunctions and insecurities, just an ordinary American man just yearning to connect. It's just a pity that Wenders couldn't find a way to tell Howard's story a bit more lucidly and with less pretentiousness. Mike Leonard August 06.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ..., April 10, 2007
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
Please don't buy this film based on the usual Sundance/Cannes credibility factor (unless you acknowledge that you are one of those types). Watch this film for what is really there: A touching and at times, funny film about decades of love lost and found. Butte, Montana provides the perfect backdrop for the majority of the film, capturing the colorful, awe-inspiring landscapes of the American west (as Wenders always has). The cast is top notch; Mann, Shepard and Polley deliver especially striking performances as father, son and daughter. Although not quite on the same level of greatness as Paris, texas, It's poignancy is undeniable. A great road film!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Come Knocking Captures Butte, January 14, 2008
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This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
I was lucky enough to live in Butte, Montana in the 90s, and this film perfectly captures Butte. I enjoyed the film, not Wim Wenders very best, but it has its charms. I'm writing this for people who would like to see Butte and don't have a plane ticket in hand. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, and you feel like you really are there, Uptown, on the Richest Hill on Earth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The New West, September 2, 2007
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
I'd buy this movie just to soak up the amazing camera shots. At times visually captivating; you'll really want a big screen to appreciate this one. The only thing that kept me from giving this four stars was the lack of depth to the story's finish. Tim Roth was a hoot. Jessica Lange had the most interesting character and a little more from her might've tightened up the ending.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a Mid-Life, Coming of Age Tale, August 14, 2006
By 
singapore51 (Mystic Valley, MA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
Well, I just watched it, and was quite taken with it as a whole. The comments about scenery, cinematography, settings eating up the screen and being as interesting, if not more so, than the other characters, is on the money. Have to agree, to a degree. The visuals were as vivid and stark as an Edward Hopper painting. That aspect was glorious. But, so were the characters, in my opnion. And, if anything, boredom or tedium was not a part of my experience. It was, not surprisingly, like a play. It had it's acts and it's own slower pace, much the same as the main character himself, Sam Shepard's, Howard Spence. Howard was a longtime in waking up to the demons that haunted him and kept him settling for less as a leading man in C class western movies. It took him 20 some years to get around to owning up to a son that he either didn't know about, or drank away the memory of being told of. Whether he is after his own redemption, or working out his guilt, as Jessica Lange's character claims, or just trying to end the running from himself, this is a middle aged man, coming of age. As dysfunctional as it is, it is also quite real. After fleeing a movie set in mid-shoot, Howard heads home to see his own mother (Eva Marie Saint) where he is confronted at a sober moment, with the fact that he has a son up in Montana. Heading out in search of who and what he really is, Howard is plagued by his actions and non-actions of the past and present. Tim Roth, as a bondsman hired by the movie studios insurance company, is in dogged pursuit of the 'in breach of contract' washed up actor. Spence encounters the woman (Lange) and mother to his son, and she leads him to the bar where the off-spring, Earl, (Gabriel Mann) is fronting a band that is a twisted country version of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with his whacked girlfriend, Amber, (Fairuza Balk) pumping away on the harmonium. Meanwhile, Sky (Sarah Polley) yet another long lost love child of the rather busy actor lurks in shadows, carrying her mom's ashes with her throughout the story. All converge with the emotional subtlety of an internal supernova. Yep, little external action. Car chases are there, kinda, but it's no Bullit. But man, I was hooked on the dialogue, the look and feel of the film, the music by T Bone Burnett and the reality of knowing sooner or later we have to own up to who we are, like it or not. I loved the film.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best (So Far) of 2006, September 8, 2006
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
"Don't Come Knocking" is directed by Wim Wenders and written and starring Sam Shepherd ('The Notebook'). The film is a visual poem, simalar to a movie like Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man" and it truly is a beautiful film. The Academy of course will ignore it, but this film should be a contender for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction for this years Oscars. The movie's reviews were less-than-spectacular, but I really can't see why. I loved this film and it's one of the best films I've seen so far this year. Shepherd plays Howard Spence, a once famous actor who flees the set of his latest film with no warning. After ditching the horse he stole from the set, he travels to Nevada to reconnect with his mother (Eva Marie Saint) whom he hasn't seen in years. Meanwhile, an insurance agent named Sutter (Tim Roth, in a wonderfully quirky performance) is sent to retrieve Howard so he can finish the film. While Howard visits with his mother and revisits via a scrapbook his troubled past (alcoholism, frequent arrests, his "fall from grace."); His mother reveals that she heard he may have a son he doesn't know about living in Butte, Montana. When he reaches Butte, he finds an old flame Doreen (Jessica Lange) and her son, his son, Earl (Gabriel Mann) and his wacky girlfriend (Fairuza Balk, who has all-but-disappeared in the last few years). There's also a mysterious girl following him named Sky (Sarah Polley) who is equipped with the ashes of her dead mother. While I did say "mysterious" I guessed who she was from the beginning, it's really no big surprise...But, anyway, the film is a slow-moving dreamlike film that not everyone will like. This is definitely an art house-type of film; But it is truly a beautiful movie and the performances are great too. I don't know the kind of people who I can recommend this too, but I'll close with this. If you like well photographed films, that are wonderful to look at, have a great story (although, one that was quite simalar was used in the film Broken Flowers),

and terrific performances. Do come knocking.

GRADE: A
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Don't Come Knocking
Don't Come Knocking by Wim Wenders (DVD - 2006)
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