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The Bag Man
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2014
This movie is about a handful of bizarre characters following a twisted, confused plot which creeps along too slowly to hold your interest. They do alot of things that make little sense, things that go against their own best interests. Like when Cusack kills the feds in the next room and returns to find a hooker in his room rifling through his belongings. Instead of killing her, he offers her a ride to the bus station. Even after he discovers she has seen his file inside the fed's briefcase, he lets her live, even showing her the dead body in his trunk. After she bites his hand and breaks free, the prostitute starts laughing, because she thinks it's all funny. Allow me to introduce Rebecca Da Costa folks, graduate of the school of really bad acting. She is a hot Brazilian actress trying to play a Russian hooker, but the script is so bad she struggles to keep a straight face and in control of her accent. Heck, one heavy accent is as good as another, right? Anyway, she is hiding from her co-pimps, one an agent of Shield and the other a Serb-Croat dwarf with a bad spray tan and eyebrows by Estee Lauder. It gets more ridiculous from there.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
THE BAG MAN isn't obviously inspired by PULP FICTION, but it comes close. It is a tale about aggressively quirky characters trading offbeat dialogue between scenes of unflinching violence in a convoluted plot that centers around a special bag into which no one may peek. The man in charge of the bag is Jack (John Cusak riding the same facial expression for most of the film), and he is given the assignment by his long-time boss, Dragna (Robert Deniro playing it oddly low-key for a character with a silver pompadour and a name like Dragna). Jack is to stay with the bag in the 13th room of a creepy-deepy motel and wait for Dragna to come and get it. The assignment turns out to be much harder than that, with everyone getting in on the action, including the wheelchair bound manager of the hotel (Crispin Glover), a couple of hard-nosed cops, and a hooker (with a heart of gold?) named Rivka.

The plot moves forward with our MacGuffin deluxe being the mysterious bag (fun drinking game: count how many times the phrase "Did you look in the bag?" is asked), but really what keeps things moving (even if it's just running in place) is Rivka being constantly beaten or threatened. In fact, every bad guy in this film is very clearly established solely by their willingness to hit a woman, including Rivka's pimps, a black guy with an eye patch and a Serb-Croat midget. Naturally.

Technically, the film fails right off the bat because it is filmed with a noir-style darkness, but without allowing any kind of contrast to most scenes, making it near impossible to tell exactly what's going on at any given moment. Fortunately (or not), not a whole lot goes on, as evidenced by the dialogue, which is repetitive to the point of distraction. I assume it was meant to be a stylistic choice -- having characters repeat each other and themselves dozens of times -- but instead of coming across as kooky or stylized or even just amusing, it sounds like the script has no idea where to go next.

"Did you look in the bag?"
"What?"
"Did you look in the bag?!"
"No. Did you look in the bag?"
"Are you asking me if I looked in the bag?"
"Did you?"
"No, I didn't look in the bag."
"Why didn't you look in the bag?"
"Why didn't YOU look in the bag?"

And so on.

Wasting time and direction that could be used to establish back story or personality, the movie instead spends most of its energy trying to craft a mood that is too sleazy to be clever and too self-aware to be amusing. Or maybe I have that backwards. In any case, when the movie DOES need to hint at a reason for all of its lunacy, it does so with no grace at all, characters announcing their various emotional calling cards, be it a dead wife or whatnot, often doing it with contrived attempts at wittiness that are, fundamentally, pointless. "I'm a connoisseur of the unexpected, but I hate surprises," says Dragna. "Just because something is inevitable doesn't mean it has to happen," says another character. Or they say something like that. I was laughing too hard to write the whole thing down.

I'd give the film one star if I hadn't at least been amused by the intensely understated performances by Cusak and Deniro, and I still got a bit of joy out of watching the derivative script clump along so handily. Still, this isn't a movie that is bound to be enjoyed by many people. First time writer/director David Grovic may have a decent movie in him in the future, but in this case, he leaned too much on his love of Tarantino to come up with anything other than a pale imitation of Tarantino's earliest style, like he was trying to mash-up Cusak's GROSSE POINTE BLANK with Cusak's IDENTITY, creating a film that is a sorry soup of the weakest bits of both of those films.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2014
I've been a fan of Cusack ever since "The Sure Thing." and I hate to say this but, it's almost as if he just gave up and is taking movie scripts for the money now. De Niro looks like a homeless gutter pimp with that hairdo. I almost didn't buy it because of the title and I should've listened to my gut instincts. One of the WORST movies I've ever tried to sit through. As I pulled the DVD out of my DVD player I thought about putting it into a yard sale. But being the good guy that I am, decided not to put another human being through the torture of watching it. I instead turned the DVD into an instant frisbee, watching it soar through the air and against the wall. "Did you look in the bag?" My answer is, YES I looked in the bag making sure it contained this movie as I threw it in the garbage can. Seriously, if you have something better to do with two hours of your time do it, otherwise you'll never get that time back.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2014
This could have been a great movie if someone had made a plot that made sense. It kept moving along but at the end I think you are going to be disappointed. Still you will get some decent action and some interesting turns.

The acting by the two main characters John Cusack and Robert De Niro is very good. Not surprising as they are good actors.

Overall, the filming was good.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2014
"Trust, the foundation of friendship." Jack (Cusack) is hired by Dragna (De Niro) to preform one simple task, take a bag to a motel and wait there for his boss. Things start going bad almost instantly. He has to fight off the prying motel clerk and other hotel guests while trying to keep a prostitute that he met safe. Just when he thinks he has everything figured out people and positions change, which only makes his job harder. Like many movies I watched this without seeing the trailer for it first but I thought with John Cusack and Robert De Niro this should be good. I can't say it was bad but it wasn't as good as I was hoping. The main downfall was the dialog, it was awful. As far as the rest of the movie goes, if it wasn't for De Niro and Cusack this would have been a bad made for TV movie. These two together raise the movie to legitimate, but they can only do so much with what they have. Overall, this wasn't a terrible movie but again my theory seems to hold true...De Niro has become an actor where 1 out of every 5 movies he does is really good, the rest are a watch once and forget it type. This is that kind. I give this a B-.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2014
I'm beginning to think the talented Cusack is just taking the money for these B flicks he has been doing. Another dark, supposed thriller, as a killer hired to pick up a bag and deliver it at a motel room 13 to Robert De Niro (who we know is just taking money to appear in everything he can). All kinds of people are after the bag and it is obvious to us all, including Cusack, that his boss is sending them to kill him. Still he waits for De Niro to arrive and pay him - why? With the aid of a six foot prostitute he sticks it out without ever looking in the bag. Not a very good story, but people that enjoy dark action will enjoy it for entertainment and the cast.
Even Dominic Purcell turned up for the payday.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2014
Slow and very talky neo-noir about a hit-man (John Cusack) who is hired by a malevolent gangster (Robert De Niro) to bring a bag to room 13 of a seedy motel and receive an exorbitant amount of cash for his trouble. Cusack's character is not allowed to look inside the bag under any circumstances. It turns out a lot of other people are interested in the bag as well and the body count slowly rises--a little too slowly, unfortunately. The cast is good but the script is so weak that it doesn't really matter much. The Bag Man generates no tension; it has no memorable action or suspense sequences; it isn't funny and, in the end, it doesn't really make much sense, but it's fairly stylish and has a good cast, which makes it a watchable time-waster.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2015
What is it with John Cusack playing an emotionless villain for hire? I mean, obviously Grosse Point Blank is one of the greatest hitman roles of all time, but he's played the same type of highly competent, mostly aloof criminal in War Inc., The Paperboy, Drive Hard, The Prince... he's played this role so much that it seems like he's on autopilot a bit. But when Cusack on cruise control is the best part of your film, there's a significant problem in execution here.

I was attracted to this movie because of the names on the cover: I'd watch Robert De Niro and John Cusack narrate a phone book, let alone star against each other in a cat-and-mouse heist thriller. This wasn't false advertising, either: De Niro only appears briefly at the start of the film, but he's present through a large part of the final act. When I saw that the supporting cast included Crispin Glover and Prison Break's Dominic Purcell, I was excited that I might have stumbled upon a direct-to-DVD gem. Alas, that wasn't to be the case.

The plot was interesting enough, as long as you try not to think about things too hard. For instance, I was annoyed in the opening scene when Cusack pulled a dead body and a shovel out of his car *right on the side of the road*. I don't know, I'm no assassin, but maybe pull the car somewhere that you won't be illuminated by passing headlights? Cusack also goes through a three-minute sequence wherein he bursts into a hotel room and assassinates two men (one of whom had knocked on his door in a suspicious way), then immediately chooses not to kill a woman who snuck into *his* room and went through the loot he'd stolen.

I can actually kind of relate to that decision, because the female protagonist (Rebecca Da Costa) is gorgeous, although it was puzzling that she was eventually asked to attempt a Russian accent. I thought Cusack and Purcell were the strongest actors in the film, while Glover... I mean, I get what he was trying to do, but I wish the director would have asked him to dial back the overt creepiness a bit. He was basically playing a caricature. His dialogue included lines like, "You're either a contrarian or a victim," and "You shouldn't have done that, Mr. Smith. You shouldn't have touched my wheelchair. It belongs to my dead mother." Ugh. I can't even judge the acting of another featured player, erstwhile rapper Sticky Fingaz, because his lines were so ridiculous that even the '70s version of De Niro couldn't have delivered them believably.

The movie's watchable, thanks mostly to Cusack. But it's difficult to root for him -- he's a mostly unsympathetic protagonist. The special effects were fine, but at times the screen was so dark that the on-screen action was difficult to decipher. The plot progresses in twists and turns, but some of the twists are visible a mile away, and De Niro's ultimate motivation for sending Cusack to be his bag man is... well, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. There are better things you could do with your time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
John Cusack is "Jack," a torpedo for Robert De Niro, who is a mob boss named "Dragna." Dragna gives Jack an odd assignment of obtaining a bag, and waiting for him in room 13 of a creepy country motel, and, most important, not looking in the bag. Once Jack takes the assignment, it seems like everyone knows about the bag and is out to get it and kill Jack in the process.

The motel seems like a set-up. Everyone there is awake and outside and asking Jack questions for no apparent reason. Jack, who is something of an paranoid psychopath, handles the situation with efficiency and extreme prejudice, except for the "hooker with the heart of gold" who he befriends.

The story was slow going for all the but the last thirty minutes, when De Niro shows up to collect the bag. It's clear that everyone but everyone knows about the bag, but not a clue is offered as to how or why. When De Niro shows up, and particularly in the last five minutes, we finally get an explanation for the logic of the plot.

The problem is that by that time, we are long past caring. We probably like Jack for his cool efficiency and quirky mannerisms, but as a character he's a total cypher. For example, it turns out that it is critical for understanding "WTF" is going on that he had a fiance who was killed. But we find this out only after we find out the answer to the mystery. This is fundamentally bad writing and a violation of the basic contract of the mystery movie with the audience, i.e., nothing will be pulled out of the bag at the end that was not presented during the movie.

So, it is ultimately a frustrating movie. But it is not the worst attempt at noir I've seen lately. The story is action-filled, but as for figuring out what is going on, that's not going to happen because the clues are withheld from the audience.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2014
This is a dark, funny, bloody film. Crispin Glover and Robert De Niro create completely creepy characters. Rebecca Da Costa is charming and a little scary at the same time. John Cusack is perfect as a killing machine who hides well the bit of life that is left in his heart. But the bit of life is still there. Don't miss this great, gritty movie.
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