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A con man flees to Southeast Asia when an international scam he was involved in goes sour. Suspecting he's been double-crossed by his long-time mentor, he sets off to Cambodia for his promised cut. What he finds there is a mysterious and hostile environment where even the most polished criminal can end up on deadly ground.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
City of Ghosts is a exotic mystery that positively oozes atmosphere. The Cambodian setting really amounts to another character in the film, and it's obvious that Matt Dillon has a real love of the country and the people. Dillon's direction and Jim Denault's cinematography do a marvelous job capturing the quirky and sometimes mystical nuances of this part of the world. Little details are woven into the scenes that really reminded me of what it's like to travel there.
Dillon did nearly everything right in tackling his first directing project. He picked an underused and exotic locale, a good production crew, and surrounded himself with top-notch, veteran acting talent. Depardieu, Caan, and especially Skarsgard do a terrific work bringing to life their shady characters. Newcomer Kem Sereyvuth does a nice job playing Dillon's taxi driver/savior Sok. Dillon's character Jimmy, ironically, is probably the least interesting of the bunch. But Dillon as always gets through on his amazing good looks, and has enough acting chops to not embarrass himself. The same can be said for Natascha McElhone who is so gorgeous it doesn't really matter what she's saying anyway.
The film moves at a somewhat slow pace, giving the story and characters lots of time to develop. Occasionally this can be an issue - sometimes time was spent on sequences that didn't contribute much to the final story. For example the opening New York scenes could have been trimmed down quite a bit and nothing would have been lost. But this film is clearly about establishing mood, and on the whole that's exactly what it accomplishes. The mysterious music and long, lingering shots of Asian street and country life are may seem indulgent to some but I thought they worked really well.
The only part of this film that I could take any real issue with was the script. Written in the film noir who-can-you-trust style, I think it would have been better if it had been simplified a bit. Credit Dillon with making the complexities mostly work, but a few less red herrings and a more dramatic final twist would have really elevated the film. However, I enjoyed City Of Ghosts quite a bit, Dillon has distinguished himself and clearly has some interesting directorial work ahead of him if he keeps at it.
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