Director: Joe Hahn
Stars: Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Stormare, Gina Gershon and Cameron Monaghan
Year Released: 2014
Based on the 2002 novel by Eric Bogosian, Mall marks Linkin Park turntablist, producer and frequent music video director Joe Hahn’s first foray in the realm of feature films. The story really follows Jess, played by Peter Stormare, as he examines the world around him and questions what everything is all about and why things happen the way that they do. From his first scene laying in the vivid green grass of a traffic median, to the last scene where we find him having returned to his island of peace, Jeff is deep inside his head and his thoughts guide us through the events of the day as we see the destruction that man is capable of, the heroism lost love can impart, the products of abuse left behind and the change that tragedy forces upon even the MDMA infused mind.
The film opens with a tweaker named Malcom marking his resignation from life as he heads to the local shopping mall to seek vengeance upon those that have done him wrong, namely his ex-boss. It quickly becomes clear however that Malcom simply wants to kill, he wants that outlet for his own pain and suffering. There is no moral cost involved; his pockets are empty and he isn’t in the mood to pay the tab anyway.
But Malcom’s exploits are really just the backdrop for the five lives that crisscross in this story, his killings incidental and meant to contrast the idyllic world that suburbanites shopping at the mall represent. There is a social implied in the killings, a commentary on the state of affairs in contemporary America, and for the most part it resonated with me. Had this film come out 20 years ago, it would have seemed far too suggestive in its message. I would have considered it to be intentionally glorifying the fringe aspects of modern Americana, but today the events that take place are seen nightly on the local news.
Vincent D’Onofrio plays the role of Danny, a middle aged man, unhappy with life and trolling the mall looking for women to fill his masturbatory fantasies until he is caught ogling one woman in particular for a little too long. That woman happens to be Donny, played by Gina Gershon, the bored housewife with an amazing body and the stench of desperation. Before Danny can act on his lust for Donny, he is taken into custody by the local cops and put into the back of a cop car, which is where Malcom and Danny kind of meet. But I will leave that little bit alone, you gotta see the movie.
Donny and Jeff happen upon each other in a dive bar not too far from the mall where multiple shootings have happened and numerous dead bodies have been found. The events that Jeff has seen so far do not seem to phase him overly much, he is far too profound for them to have, because suddenly all that he can think of is getting a little piece of Donny, even if he has eyes for a certain predatory redhead.
The movie is good, in fact I would say that the movie might even be really good. I have tickets to see it tomorrow in the theater, tonight I watched it at home simply to get a review written up before the movie is released to the public. I really think the movie is going to need a second viewing to appreciate. I will certainly update this review after the second viewing.
For right now I will say that this was a majorly ambition project for Joe Hahn, a huge step up from directing music videos, and he did a lot better than the vast majority of first time film makers that I have seen. His eye for the visual elements was amazing, the score was outstanding, relaying the story onto the screen was very well done. The exposition by Jeff in the form of the voice-overs was well placed and I never felt like it detracted from the story, if anything I thought the directing helped bring more to the piece than I can imagine the written word did. As it is, Jeff comes across as far too young to be so profound and introspective, he is a borderline cliche of the angsty kid with a higher than average intelligence that never felt at place among his peers. But when you are working from an established novel, you have to do with it what you can, and for the most part Joe Hahn pulls it off really well. I only hope that in future movies he learns to push his actors into revealing more about themselves and their characters, because it is very clear in this film that this was not the case.
D’Onofrio and Gershon are clearly the anchors of this acting ensemble; both lend such a level of authenticity to their roles that they walk a fine line between lending more to the acting of their fellows and highlighting the immaturity of those around them. Joe Hahn manages to keep them from falling though, teeter as they may.
Mall did not disappoint, it did not blow me away as I had hoped, but it did not let me down. The talents of Joe Hahn behind the camera are there in full force, his ability to emote visually (as he has in countless Linkin Park videos in the past) makes him an awesome force as a director and this movie suggests that as he matures he will do wonderfully. A movie focusing on so many complex social issues that permeate our lives (even from a novel published 12 years ago) is a tough trick to pull off without coming across trite or condescending, and that is accomplished here. I recommend going to see Mall, especially if multi-narrative movies that focus on taboo subjects like Crash and Babel do are the types of movie that you enjoy.