Can Pierce Brosnan Save SALVATION BOULEVARD?July 27, 2011
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: SALVATION BOULEVARD (IFC)
Can Pierce Brosnan Save SALVATION BOULEVARD?
By Chris Claro
George Ratliff’s SALVATION BOULEVARD is a madcap, scattershot comedy that makes a block party of the hypocrisy-filled confluence of big business and big religion. Starring Pierce Brosnan as a charismatic preacher who believes only in himself, Jennifer Connelly as a parishioner who believes too much, Ed Harris as a writer who believes nothing, Greg Kinnear as a guy who doesn’t know what to believe, and Marisa Tomei as a Deadhead who doesn’t remember what she believes, SALVATION BOULEVARD has star power to burn.
With strong supporting turns from Ciaran Hinds (ROME) as Connelly’s skeptical father, and Jim Gaffigan (AWAY WE GO) as Brosnan’s lackey, Ratliff’s film avoids cheap shots at religion in favor of a “Wrong Man” scenario that sends Kinnear pinballing hither and yon to clear himself of a murder rap.
With a cast like that, you can’t go wrong, right? Well, no. Some of the biggest comedy bombs of all time have had a Murderers’ Row of stars that couldn’t save them. Look at the runaway train that was TOWN AND COUNTRY, with Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Garry Shandling. Or check out Shandling’s own Mike Nichols-directed debacle, WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM, which featured the aforementioned Kinnear as well as Annette Bening, John Goodman, and Ben Kingsley. As these titles and other prove, despite able casting, comedy can’t fly without a serviceable script.
So it is with SALVATION BOULEVARD. Taking its title – and little else – from the novel by Larry Beinhart, who also authored WAG THE DOG, the film’s preposterousness is trying. When Carl Vanderveer (Kinnear) sees Brosnan’s Pastor Dan Day shoot atheist Paul Blaylock, (Harris), it clumsily triggers a schematic narrative that puts Carl on the road to clearing his name and questioning his faith.
Kinnear, an immensely appealing actor who doesn’t get to show his dark side often enough – go watch AUTO FOCUS and wonder why Kinnear wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the pervy Bob Crane – and he tries hard here to make Carl, the former deadhead turned reluctant holy roller, more than just a caricature. But the script doesn’t give him much to work with.
Coming off even worse is Connelly, severely miscast as Carl’s believe-at-any-cost wife, Gwen, who steadfastly refuses to acknowledge her pastor’s duplicity. An actress who projects an air of intelligence and certainty at all times, Connelly projects Gwen’s lack of faith in her husband as borderline mania and just seems too smart an actress to make her character credible.
(Looking for another recent example of performers who are smarter than the characters they play? Give DATE NIGHT another look. Carell and Fey are accomplished performers who project an air of wit and sophistication and shoehorning them into a second-rate sitcom which could have starred Katherine Heigl and Jason Segel does nobody any good. End of rant.)
What works in SALVATION BOULEVARD? Tomei is dependably charming as Honey, a stoner security guard who tries to help Kinnear. The way her loosey-goosey charm butts up against Carl’s tight-assed attempts to maintain the straight and narrow offer some of the film’s funnier moments. Also very good is Isabelle Fuhrman (ORPHAN) as Gwen’s daughter, who offers an oasis of calm and sanity among the zealots and criminals who populate the film. Brosnan, as always, is spot-on, and Pastor Day is tailor-made for the sly charm that he has brought to better films, such as THE MATADOR and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.
Neither disaster nor noble failure, SALVATION BOULEVARD occupies the middle ground of so many Hollywood comedies, straddling the line between not enough and too far. There’s a place out there for a deep, dark satire about the way religion’s insidiousness hidden agenda, but this film ain’t it.
However, if you’re up for a look at some of Hollywood’s finest honing their comedy chops, for God’s sake, give SALVATION BOULEVARD a look.
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com
Look for SALVATION BOULEVARD (IFC) under your cable system's Movie On Demand section.
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