JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT, also known, by those who put up with its 88 aggressively ugly minutes, as “Journey To The Bottom Of The Barrel”. After the wasted $6,200,000 worth of hyper-stylized crud repelled audiences at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, the “gritty crime thriller” took in a grand total of $49,172 before being consigned to DVD releases, staggered over the next three years. Maybe there’s a class-action suit going for those who fell for it. Your humble reviewer did, figuring the presence of likable Brendan Fraser, intense Scott Glenn and fetching Catalina Sandino Moreno, tossed into the throbbing underworld background of a Brazilian mega-city might bring the heat. Crack your Portuguese dictionary: “Que merda de merda!”
Sao Paulo, Brazil. Two American exiles, father and son, own a brothel. ‘Paul’, the son (Fraser), is a cokehead and gambling addict. His old man, ‘Sinatra’, (Glenn) is married to ‘Angie’ (Moreno), one of his ex-hookers. The killing of a client (a Russian drug runner) starts a scramble to get the dead guy’s stash delivered to African buyers. A lowly employee, affable Nigerian dishwasher ‘Wemba’ (Mos Def) is tasked with the delivery, while Paul goes through various meltdowns and Sinatra waxes philosophically. Profanity, violence and nonstop seediness are the order of the day…er…night.
No reason at all to set things in Sao Paulo, which, apart from the opening credits where the camera pans across part of its staggering vastness, is barely used to any effect. Things may as well have been done on a soundstage for all the atmosphere that comes across. Lazy f-bombs & m-f associates permeate the clichéd, convoluted script, which has common sense gaps you could drive a carnival float through, and the camerawork choices—darkness soaked in sepia filters of various garish colors, is absurd. “Look, we’re directing!” Pretentious, indulgent, thoroughly unpleasant.
Fraser is embarrassingly over-the-top (you can make a drinking game by counting his destroyed cell-phones), Glenn is so morose it seems like he’s doing a Scott Glenn impression, and it’s a pitiful waste of Moreno, ill-picking her first role after a stunning Oscar-nominated debut in Maria Full Of Grace. The only positives to come out of this empty, dispiriting mess are the solid performances from Mos Def (now going by Yasiin Bey) and Alice Braga.
Blame for the terrible writing and undisciplined direction falls on Eric Eason, who had received praise in 2002 for his first film, Manito. Five years after this one tanked so ingloriously, in 2011 he wrote the excellent drama A Better Life, but on that project direction was handled by Chris Weitz.
A credit for the affecting Mos Def (and to a lesser extent Ms. Braga), a big debit for everyone else. With Matheus Nachtergaele and Ruy Polanah.