Eric (Pattinson) is a 28-year-old billionaire who wants a haircut. As he climbs into his high-tech limousine, his security chief (Durand) warns about traffic problems because the US President's in Manhattan. En route, Eric continues his routine, meeting his computer expert (Baruchel), theoretician (Morton) and financial advisor (Hampshire), who talks to him during his daily prostate exam.
He also sees his new wife (Gadon) several times, has sex with two women (Binoche and McKenzie), endures an anarchists' riot, gets a pie in the face and confronts a man (Giamatti) who wants to kill him.
The film is a series of abrupt scenes that only occasionally link together, which makes Eric's journey feel interminable. So Cronenberg builds tension with hints of threats, trouble in the markets and business issues, plus a range of visitors and obstacles. He also slowly ratchets up the sound mix, from utterly silent at the beginning to frantic noise accompanied by Howard Shore's unnerving score. But none of this draws us in because it's impossible connect with the story or characters.
Pattinson nails Eric's sarcastic callousness, vividly portraying a cold-hearted man who thinks the world revolves around him. Along his journey, Eric is drawn further into himself, contemplating the meaning of his life without proper context. He clearly doesn't think rules apply to him, and believes that success makes him smarter and deeper than everyone else. But since the opposite is actually true, we don't care about anything he says or does. And in the end, he faces Giamatti in an overlong climax that hinges on an impenetrable conversation.
Along the way, the film has moments of bracing insight. With a sleek visual sheen, Cronenberg keeps the story moving, literally, although the incessant philosophical discussions wear us out as they travel in circles and riddles.
Some of this is very funny, other scenes are provocative or disarming, playing with important issues while poking fun at a system that doesn't really work.
But without any real kick, it's ultimately rather dull.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th May 2012
Box Office USA: $0.7M
Distributed by: Entertainment One
Production compaines: Alfama Films, France 2 Cinéma, Prospero Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 106 Rotten: 59
IMDB: 5.0 / 10
Director: David Cronenberg
Screenwriter: David Cronenberg
Starring: Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, Sarah Gadon as Elise Shifrin, Juliette Binoche as Didi Fancher, Paul Giamatti as Benno Levin, Samantha Morton as Vija Kinsky, Jay Baruchel as Shiner, Kevin Durand as Torval, Mathieu Amalric as Andre Petrescu, Emily Hampshire as Jane Melman, Patricia McKenzie as Kendra Hays, George Touliatos as Anthony, Philip Nozuka as Michael Chin, Abdul Ayoola as Ibrahim Hamadou, Gouchy Boy as Kosmo Thomas, Zeljko Kecojevic as Danko, Bob Bainborough as Dr. Ingram, Jadyn Wong as Cathy Lee, David Schaap as Arthur Rapp, Warren Chow as Arthur's Attacker, Ryan Kelly as Rat Man #1, Nadeem Umar-Khitab as Rat Man #2, K'Naan as Brutha Fez, John Batkis as Photographer #1, Saad Siddiqui as Photographer #2, Anna Hardwick as Photographer #3 - Jenn, Inessa Frantowski as Woman Holding Rat, Albert Gomez as Counterman (as Alberto Gomez), Jonathan Seinen as Man on Fire, Milton Barnes as Videographer
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