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2 items from 2006

'Dead' men walking: Klein, Busey, Durst

21 December 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- Chris Klein, Jake Busey and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst are starring in Jason Wiles' dark comedy Play Dead.

Klein will play Ronnie Reno, a former TV action hero in dire need of a comeback. On his way back from a failed audition, he winds up snowbound in a remote Nevada town run by scary meth dealers, including Merle (Busey), and their henchman (Durst). When he finds the body of a dead FBI agent there, life imitates Reno's art as he is forced to reunite with his former co-stars, including Devon Michael Beach), to save himself and the terrorized townsfolk.

The feature is written by Wiles and Shem Bitterman, whose 10-year-old daughter Annabelle will play one of the endangered residents. Bitterman, Wiles, Kurt Tuffendsam, Mark Koetting, Michael O'Shea and Tom Rooker are producing the project with executive producer Brent Herrin.

Wiles is best known as Maurice Bosco Boscorelli on NBC's long-running series Third Watch. He recently directed the drama Lenexa, 1 Mile with co-writer/director Bitterman. »

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6 November 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Walk on the Beach Prods.

Addiction and amour fou are one and the same in "Broken", in which Heather Graham and Jeremy Sisto play the symbolically named Hope and Will. Much of what unfolds in the L.A.-set drama feels symbolic or overly pointed -- an approach only partly explained by the story's final revelation. Good performances and an intriguingly noirish edge-of-town sensibility go only so far to compensate for an abundance of on-the-nose dialogue in the film, which took its world-premiere bow Saturday at AFI Fest.

The third feature by director Alan White ("Risk", "Erskineville Kings") unfolds mainly over one night in the Blue Star, a 24-hour diner on the outskirts of downtown where wannabe singer-songwriter Hope waits tables. At the same time, her dissolute, unhinged ex, Will, makes his way back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas on a crime-fueled trip that promises to end in disaster. As a "Nighthawks"-style rogue's gallery of patrons fill the booths, offering Hope advice or painful reminders of her own sense of failure, she recalls the ill-fated trajectory of her romance with Will. From a mildly creepy Malibu pickup, they quickly progressed to a shared devotion to heroin -- to the point of gruesome debasement for Hope.

That Will has no vocation other than shooting up makes Hope's involvement with him maddening, but Sisto imbues him with a believably needy, manipulative intensity. And as someone easily led off course from her ambitions, Graham brings a different kind of neediness, unfocused, dazzled and blank.

White also draws some good work from the supporting ensemble of customers, among them two lonely guys waiting to score coke (Jake Busey and Joe Hursley) and a scruffy wacko-as-seer (Tess Harper). Linda Hamilton has a cynical world-weariness as an escort-service entrepreneur, but Hope is more open to offers from a sleazy film producer (Randall Batinkoff) and an Ecstasy-tripping club girl (Jessica Stroup).

Each interaction is believable to a point, but the customers' spiels feel too authorial. Drew Pillsbury's script opts for flavorless dialogue rather than pushing for genre sizzle or deeper into the night-shift fever dream that DP Neil Shapiro effectively evokes. Tracks by Brian Jonestown Massacre fit the mood but should have been used more judiciously.


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