Somebody tell John Cusack to stay out of motels and hotels. In 1408, he played a guy who checks into a haunted room, and all hell breaks loose.
In The Bag Man, it's a fleabag motor inn with No. 13 on the door. You can tell it's not exactly the Four Seasons by the on again/off again neon sign, and by the guy in the wheelchair behind the office counter: It's Crispin Glover, who can make "I need an imprint of your credit card" sound like a statement of utter madness.
Until the moment when Robert De Niro punches actress Celesta Hodge in the face, The Bag Man was looking mildly diverting - a pastiche of Lynch and Tarantino, with a nod to Psycho and a lot of noir. Cusack has the title role, a cool killer hired by the sinister, silver-haired De Niro character. It's one of the latter actor's hand-me-the-paycheck jobs, requiring him to pummel blonds, soliloquize about trust, and say the words tropisms and stimuli. He is paying Cusack's Jack to pick up a bag and hole up in this motel - and whatever Jack does, do not look inside the bag.
Of course, there is a femme fatale - first seen in streetwalker couture, accessorized with blue wig and red spiked heels. She is played by the very tall Rebecca Da Costa, who is from Brazil and was a model and delivers her lines in tall, Brazilian, model-y ways.
A Russian dwarf, a pimp with an eyepatch, and a pair of local law enforcement officers show up - not all at once, but all brandishing weapons and smelling of menace.
The Bag Man is a first feature by David Grovic, who directs and also cowrote the screenplay, which has a provenance that goes back to the actor James Russo and the Swiss Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz. Von Franz's connection may or may not explain why the movie references Hermann Hesse, or why De Niro says "tropisms."
Also of note: A Nick Drake song is criminally misused.
And whatever you do, do not look inside the bag.
Directed by David Grovic. With John Cusack, Robert De Niro, and Rebecca Da Costa. Distributed by Cinedigm.
Running time: 1 hour, 48 mins.
Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity, adult themes)
Playing at: AMC Neshaminy EndText