Friday, October 5, 2012

Cancel My Reservation: "New Rose Hotel" (1999)



Abel Ferrara, the loose cannon director behind such fare as "Ms .45" and "Bad Lieutenant" finally finds time to make his worst film.

Based on a William Gibson short story, X (Willem Dafoe) and Fox (Christopher Walken) are hired to lure scientist Hiroshi (Yoshitaka Amano) from one giant corporation to another. Promised one hundred million dollars, the duo hire Sandii (Asia Argento) to seduce Hiroshi from his wife and job, and take up with the competition. To complicate matters, X and Sandii begin having feelings for one another while the physically handicapped Fox can only look on from the sidelines, perhaps jealous of the both of them. Sandii succeeds in her endeavor, but things go awry when someone murders Hiroshi and his coworkers, and Sandii disappears. X then begins tracing his memories of his time with Sandii to find out what happened, and Fox meets an untimely end.

Believe me, the plot summary is the most exciting thing about this dull film. Not many can accuse Ferrara of making something boring, but he does here. The film opens and immediately the viewer will think they came in on the middle of the story. For most of the first third of the film, I had no idea what was going on. I watched, even took notes, but Ferrara refuses to let his audience in on the plot. As I deciphered what was going on, the plot lurches forward until the final quarter of the film. X is now a resident of the title hotel, one of those Japanese hotels where everyone sleeps in tiny cubby holes. Then, and I am not exaggerating, Ferrara then spends at least twenty minutes in flashback to the first hour of the film. If it did not make sense the first time around, it sure won't with the flashback. Ferrara shows us important clues that X should have caught, knowing Sandii may not be all that she was. Do you know what? The audience sort of figures this out anyway, especially with a cast this small. The flashback is really a padded, tacked on sequence. It is as if Ferrara knew he had nothing here, and wanted to use some smoke and mirrors to boost the comprehension level. It does not work.

Walken and Dafoe are okay, they are not given enough characterization. They do improvise plenty, what else can you do with these shallow parts? Asia Argento is simply yummy as the call girl. It is sad, though, that Dafoe tries to ad lib with her, and the Italian-born Argento gamely sticks to the script, trying to say her line as Dafoe plays with his dialogue. Annabella Sciorra has a cameo that makes no sense, as does famed Japanese composer and actor Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Usually Ferrara's work earns a cult following, but I had never heard of this film until I saw it on the video rental shelf. It is so bad, there are no critics' sound bites on the box, trying to make this sound better than it is. Throw in underwhelmingly cheap special effects, and Ferrara's silly video camera surveillance shots, and "New Rose Hotel" is one loser of a film.

I recommend "New Rose Hotel" to Ferrara fans, and insomniacs. (*) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: New Rose Hotel