In this powerful film, four very different people on the edge of desperation are unexpectedly linked by their destinies. A top-notch cast featuring Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Emile Hirsch unforgettably brings to life the stories of a clairvoyant gangster, a rising pop star, an unlikely bank robber and a doctor desperate to save the love of his life. Filled with surprising twists and turns, this suspenseful, action-filled drama employs both brutal violence and aching poetry in a moving exploration of the search for happiness in a gritty urban world.
Every so often a crime drama with delusions of existential grandeur comes ambling down the pike. Sometimes, as in Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run
, a philosophically-inclined filmmaker strikes cinematic gold. If video director Jieho Lee's erratic debut falls short of that estimable mark, he can't be faulted for lack of ambition. Set in an anonymous urban metropolis and divided into the four pillars of life--happiness, pleasure, sorrow, and love--The Air I Breathe
means to illustrate Henry Ward Beecher's opening epigram: "No emotion, anymore than a wave, can long retain its own individual form." A mild-mannered stockbroker representing happiness (The Last King of Scotland
's Forest Whitaker) kickstarts this disquisition into destiny when he decides to take a risk (all four principals are unnamed). Inspired by a coolly confident client who stands for pleasure (Brendan Fraser), he places an unwieldy bet on a fixed race, attracting the attention of sadistic loan shark Fingers (Andy Garcia, doing his best Al Pacino impression). Fraser's character reports to the latter, who manages sorrowful pop star "Trista" (Sarah Michelle Gellar, last seen in the equally strange Southland Tales
). The psychic henchman also looks after his employer's motormouth nephew, Tony (an uncharacteristically unconvincing Emile Hirsch). The lovelorn doctor (Kevin Bacon) who treats the hitman after an injury turns to Trista when his best friend's wife (Julie Delpy) falls ill. Whew. Inconsistent acting and clunky dialogue aside, The Air I Breathe
infuses conventional genre thrills with introspection to intermittently engaging effect. --Kathleen C. Fennessy