Silver City


Maria Bello as Nora Allardyce
Thora Birch as Karen Cross
David Clennon as Mort Seymour
Chris Cooper as Dickie Pilager
Alma Delfina as Lupe Montoya
Richard Dreyfuss as Chuck Raven
Miguel Ferrer as Cliff Castleton
James Gammon as Sheriff Joe Skaggs
Daryl Hannah as Maddy Pilager
Danny Huston as Danny O’Brien
Kris Kristofferson as Wes Benteen
Sal Lopez as Tony Guerra
Michael Murphy as Senator Judson Pilager
Mary Kay Place as Grace Seymour
Tim Roth as Mitch Paine
Luis Saguar as Vince Esparza
Ralph Waite as Casey Lyle
Billy Zane as Chandler Tyson

The campaign for Colorado governor by Dickie Pillager (Chris Cooper) hits a literal snag when a corpse turns up on the end of the candidate’s fishing rod. His political advisor (Richard Dreyfus) hires former reporter, now private investigator Danny O’Brien (Danny Huston) find out which one of his political “problem” is responsible for this “embarrassment”. Instead, Danny discovers a ecological conspiracy that involves a large corporation that has been backing the candidate.

For decades, John Sayles has been the consummate screenwriter and filmmaker making many classic indie films on a number of subjects. While his work ethic has earned him respect in Hollywood, his movies have been mostly overlooked by all but a small group of film fanatics. For his latest movie, Sayles delves into a topic that is prevalent on many minds right now, creating a work of fiction set in the world of American politics. Many of the characters and situations are taken directly from the news, and as in his past films, Sayles has assembled another impressive cast of legendary actors and regulars from his past films.

Actor Chris Cooper works with Sayles for the fourth time and for the first time since 1997’s Lone Star, and as expected, he steals the show as Dickie Pillager, the political newbie trying to follow in his father’s footsteps into the “family business”. Of course, Cooper’s take on the character could be seen as a bit of a commentary on a certain young George W. Bush, since Dickie seems similar clueless when it comes to talking in public or to the press. Like Bush, Dickie has the help of a shrewd and ruthless political advisor named Chuck Raven, played by veteran actor Richard Dreyfus, who is obviously patterned after Bush’s own advisor, Karl Rove. After his introduction, the movie is sprinkled with random scenes of Pillager doing campaign ads and talking to the press, often with hilarious results, to keep things interesting. The two actors are so good that when they aren’t on the screen, the movie tends to grind to a halt.

The movie’s advertising is a bit deceptive, because anyone expecting a political film in the vein of Primary Colors or Tim Robbins’ Bob Roberts will be disappointed to learn that most of the stuff with Pillager and Raven is secondary to the central plot about Danny O’Brien’s investigation of the corpse. The storyline has its ups and downs as it puts him in contact with everyone from an outspoken liberal radio talk show host (Miguel Ferrer) to an underground Internet reporter (Tim Roth). Things start to get a bit too obvious when his investigation takes him into the world of illegal Mexican workers, leading to a bunch of inexcusable stereotypes, and then the movie quickly regresses into a 70’s television crime drama. The story does start coming back together towards the end as the clues are unraveled and the rather plodding story takes a definite upswing with the introduction of Daryl Hannah as Dickie’s rebellious and free-spirited sister. Other than that, the movie is so long and slow that it’s hard to stay interested.

While Danny O’Brien might have been an interesting character, Danny Huston just isn’t a strong enough actor to carry the movie. Sayles does spend a lot of time developing the character and his back story–he was a failure as a husband and as a reporter, and he is doing his best to not fail as an investigator-and ultimately that does pay off, as the character grows on you. Still, Huston is the main reason why the movie never quite achieves its potential, because his drab performances tend to drag down the scenes with the more experienced actors. Considering the talent involved, it certainly can be aggravating.

Maria Bello of The Cooler suffers the worst of it, because despite another decent performance as Danny’s ex-wife, she’s playing a completely unnecessary character in the story. Still, Sayles’ desire to create a rich tapestry of characters ends up making Silver City so convoluted that the entire movie is dragged down despite Sayles’ many attempts to return to the sure-fire comedic factor of Cooper as Pillager.

The Bottom Line:
When it comes to politics, Sayles certainly has a lot on his mind and Silver City gives him a chance to explore many of these interesting ideas. Despite the mostly fantastic cast, Silver City is not one of Sayles’ best scripts or movies, and it tends to get too bogged down in the number of characters and subplots in what should be a pretty straight ahead story. It has its moments, but ultimately, it’s a dull and somewhat disappointing experience.

Silver City opens in select cities on Friday.