David Cronenberg slices and dices capitalism in "Cosmopolis," but the famed director doesn't take the path many of his peers routinely tread.
The film, available now on Blu-ray and DVD, casts "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson as the personification of the detached, amoral rich. Yet "Cosmopolis" doesn't deify the Occupy Wall Street types, here portrayed as violent anarchists with swelled egos and little coherent plans for a better tomorrow. And the assaults on the modern market, presented as a quasi-futuristic version complete with some pretty neat iPad-like devices, occasionally border on brilliant.
The adaptation of Don Delillo's tome of the same name is a chore to sit through all the same, an intellectual slog better suited for the stage - hopefully with some tweaking to keep audiences awake.
Robert Pattinson stars as Eric Packer, a hyper-rich financial tycoon obsessed with getting his haircut. The city is in total gridlock thanks to various emerging threats as well as a visit from the president.
Which president? Eric asks his stalwart chauffeur (Kevin Durand).
So Eric lounges in his limousine, the car crawling along, while a variety of characters (played by Jay Baruchel, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche) enter and exit. Cronenberg manages to make the cramped setting feel cold and inviting all at once, the kind of vehicle we wouldn't mind spending our 9-to-5 work week in if given the chance.
Eric enjoys casual sex, arcane business banter and even a prostate exam without needing to step outside. All the while, Cronenberg forces Pattinson and co. to spit out stilted monologues about the flimsy value of the market system, the merits of financially prudent marriages and the perils of financial prognostications.
Pattinson, burdened with carrying a film stacked tall with artifice, reveals nuances he rarely taps in his vampire alter ego. No actor could fully bring Eric to life. He's an ideological construct, not flesh in blood. The young actor tries mightily all the same, conveying both a rigorous intellect and a soulless capacity that's as chilling as the film's icy art direction, beautifully captured in high definition.
We see shades of Occupy Wall Street all around Eric's limousine, thuggish protesters wielding rat costumes and spray paint cans. They're hardly the "mostly peaceful" types described in biased mainstream media outlets.
A few of the film's capitalism critiques leave a mark, particularly when one of Eric's car companions drolly notes how a financial figure's pregnant pause in conversation jolted the market. And there's something unnerving with how Eric's wealth insulates him from the rest of society, as if his nerve endings no longer function the way they should.
Pattinson reveals that detachment with a slyness that tells us his "Twilight" fame might be both the best and worst thing to happen to his career.
By the time "Cosmopolis" temporarily drops the starched conversations for gunplay, it's clear the film offers precious little beyond its intellectual ruminations. Who is Eric Packer? Why does he behave the way he does? is there goodness within him, or has greed and pragmatism wiped it all away? Even Paul Giamatti's appearance late in the film can't shake the sensation that "Cosmopolis" has long run out of cogent points to make.
The Blu-ray extras include an expansive look at the film's creation dubbed "Citizens of 'Cosmopolis'" plus separate interviews with the cast and an atypical commentary track from Cronenberg.