|Index||6 reviews in total|
Quick ways to describe this film: funny, odd, exotic, sexy, edgy, sublime, obvious, witty, quirky and surprising. With one foot firmly planted in a melting pot of film noir references, and the other foot stomping about those "crime gone wrong" style flicks, thrown up on the screen with saucy and unique Canadian humour, "3 Days in Havana" is the kind of film you just can't help but love. Shot gorgeously all over Havana, it's part crime drama, buddy comedy, thriller and exotic travel expose, filled with the raw, decayed beauty and a myriad of historical pasts from revolutions to Mafiosos. Written, produced and directed by life-long pals Tony Pantages and Gil Bellows for under $1M (you'd be amazed at how great they made it look with such a tight budget), "3 Days in Havana" might not impress film buffs who take themselves too seriously, but if you enjoy your stories spicy, twisted, exotic and odd, this one is for you!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've been travelling to La Habana for about 20 years, was a travel writer about the place for a while, have probably done 20 radio interviews about Cuba and wrote a book that was pretty well received and paid for a few extra trips there. Americans don't and can't accurately represent Cuba in their reportage, docs and dramas; everything they write and film about the place has a political filter. And I expected this picture to be like every other one that has attempted to tell a story that unfolds in this place. And (redundantly) I was shocked! Bellows and Pantages get it and got it. Habana is, as it must be, a character in the story; the worn out buildings, the eclectic people (even the old doll with chicklet teeth and capri pants), the Coco Taxis, the Malecon, the rum/cigars/chicas. Cuba is a ruse: nothing is as it seems; better or worse. And this narrative fits Cuba perfectly. Nothing is as it seems. When I saw MacKellar and Bellows names attached; I frankly expected another cheesy Canadian Telefilm special. I was wrong. Perhaps the most incredible story in the history of Canadian movie making; that a thriller of this quality can be made for a million (less than the catering budget for most pictures). Congratulations, Fellas. And if any producers are reading this review and looking to make a picture, you'd be crazy not to give these guys a call.
"3 Days In Havana" is as cool and handsome as it is playful and
intelligent. The kind of film the Coen Brothers would write and direct
if the Coen Brothers' sensibilities were rooted in the Canadian manner.
This film has all kinds of beauty and heart and yet, it is equally
relentless in its dark humour, political skullduggery, and sexy
Think of it this way: What if you were travelling to Cuba, beholden only to an ostensibly sorry-assed, several day business Conference in Havana. And then along came a dose of seduction. Followed by a second dose of underground allure. "Hey!" You might think to yourself... "I'm where I don't need to be me, at least until the Conference begins. What's the worst that could happen?"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The producers credit as inspiration, among others, Hitchcock, the Coen
Brothers, and Antonioni.
There is certainly a strong influence of Hitch in this tale of what appears to be an ordinary Canadian man who, as in "The Thirty-Nine Steps," gets mixed up in violence and international intrigue.
Add more than a few dollops of Coen Brothers black humor and perversity, as well as a considerable helping of Antonioni's trademark mystery and indeterminacy.
Set it in a vivid and decadent Havana, lovingly and lushly photographed, populated by a variety of Cuban types, and you might expect that all the ingredients would bake up into a pleasantly steamy concoction.
But at the two thirds point, around the time that Greg Wise's character is killed off. the atmosphere falters, and like an underdone cake, it falls flat. Wise, in particular, is missed because the lone female character is absent until the very end and Gil Bellows' screen presence is too bland and inexpressive to hold our interest.
A big drawback is the lack of sexual tension. The homoerotic bond is not explored, merely glanced at; then, in a very Freudian way, put aside and ridiculed.
Nor does it help that the movie keeps its cards close to its chest. Absent a clue about a "McGuffin," the audience is left in the dark far too long as to motives and relationships.
In sum, of interest mainly for its supporting actors, its photography and its portrait of Havana.
"Jack" is played by Gil Bellows, who also wrote and directed this film, along with Tony Pantages. Jack finds himself in Havana, and is shown around town by Harry (Greg Wise), which leads to more and more trouble as we go along. Harry seems to have temper issues. It's all very noirish and mysterious. We're never sure what's going on, but it's all a grand adventure. About halfway through, we see what's going on. Jack has managed to get himself in the middle of a murder plot, and doesn't seem to have anyone to help him get out. One odd, interesting connection - The actress playing the "broker" is Phyllida Law; she is the actual mother in law of Greg Wise (Harry). The music throughout is AWESOME, as one would expect from Cuba. Also beautiful scenery. Great photography of the Cuba sunrise and sunsets. Really good. Hats off to the writers and the actors. Tight script and good performances by all. I enjoyed watching this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Excerpt from Cinematic Codes Review: Spring 2016 Issue: for visuals
I now started skipping some of the films I disliked in my recent viewing history on Netflix because writing about the problems in Hotel Transylvania 2 was pretty depressing. I watched the bulk of this feature while I was designing or going on about my chores, but the ending made me chuckle and was an unusual surprise that was better than the average formulaic resolution. "Hey, you wanna kill a gangster for me?" asks a girl he meets at the bar, Rita, played by Rya Kihlstedt. "Ah Sure " Jack Petty, who's supposedly in Havana on business, played by the writer/ director, Gil Bellows, answers with a smirk. "You're right I shouldn't have told you all that. I should've just shut da hell up. I'm sorry. It was nice talking with you. But on this trip we should both try having some fun, after all, we're in paradise right?" writes down and hands him her hotel room number. The bulk of the film is action, be it fighting, dancing, playing ball or otherwise touring Havana. The few conversations Jack ends up having are all significant in the surprise ending.
Fig. 11. Gil Bellows, left, and Greg Wise in 3 Days in Havana.
The plot line up until the end is that Jack is an innocent business-minded tourist that ends up being roped into illicit drug usage, prostitution and other shady and seductive activities by an assassin, Harry Smith that befriends him. "In a few hours you're gonna have all the girls of Cuba trying to start a fire in your crotch. Salsa, mi amigo, eh? Can you smile, eh?" Harry Smith, played by Greg Wise, tries to convince his apparently hesitant new friend, Jack. "Yea, I can do that, yea," Jack says casually. "Just keep them in front of you. Yea? They'll do the rest " Harry adds. The night does not go as planned for Harry, who does not manage to get his supposed hit. But it starts out as if he can manage the problems around him when he threats to cut a guy that objects to Jack urinating in an alley.
Fig. 12. Greg Wise, left, and Paul Pardon.
In what at first seems like a friendly conversation between an aristocratic elderly assassination administrator (who I assume is meant to symbolize the Queen of England) and the drunkard hit-man, she gives him the marching orders, and mentions that she is displeased with how he managed to kill relatives that were not intended hit targets in an earlier assignment.
Fig. 13. Greg Wise, left, and Phyllida Law (The Broker).
Jack seems to be attempting to report the crimes he is witnessing to his embassy, but they end up torturing him when they assume that he is the hit-man. They eventually let him go when he does not talk. The plot is too sketchy here, and it is unclear how they fail to investigate Jack's background, and just let him go after the very serious offense of torturing him. In practice, detainees who are torture are usually detained for a very long time and eventually brought on trial, as they can otherwise file charges against illegal detainment and torture without sufficient cause to have even been detained beyond the short interval of the torture. Clearly, Gil Bellows did not do much research on this topic. He manages to hides this by making most conversations casual and action-based instead of getting into the political, legal or criminal meanings behind the action sequence.
Fig. 14. Gil Bellows recovering after torture.
The majority of this film was executed in a drunkard hobo acting style, and this was what kept my attention distracted on other things as I was watching it. Gil Bellows acts more like a hippie mountaineer that just smoked a bag of stolen weed than like the businessman or possibly hit-man that he is supposed to be portraying. The clothing on not only the Havana natives, but also on the leads, looks like it was bought in a local, Havana thrift store. This is both a good thing, because it's authentic, and a bad thing because the actors with receding headlines and pimples are not assisted by fancy clothing to make them attractive. There usually has to be something mesmerizing in a film to keep the viewer stuck on the screen: the beauty of the actors, the clothing, the scenery, or any other consistent element on the screen. Instead, the places depicted are dirty and pastel, just like all other ingredients. On the other hand, it is refreshing to see a film that looks from start-to-end like it was shot on-location in Havana, as places like this probably could not be mimicked in a set. Overall, I would recommend watching this movie, but I cannot guarantee that you will not be a bit bored and annoyed by the slack performances until the very end.
Title: 3 Days in Havana Directed/ Written by: Gil Bellows, Tony Pantages Stars: Olunike Adeliyi, Gil Bellows (Jack Petty), Ariel Cardenas, Greg Wise (Harry Smith) Genre: Comedy; Crime Running Time: 83 min Release: 2013
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