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CITY OF GHOSTS

For his directorial debut, Matt Dillon heads to Cambodia with a sensibility somewhere between Wes Andersonís Bottle Rocket and Francis Coppolaís Apocalypse Now. To his credit, few other directors have used Dillonís sculpted matinee looks and raspy voice as effectively as he does directing himself in the role of Jimmy Cremming, a conflicted con man who heads to Cambodia to track down Marvin (James Caan, reminiscent of Mr. Henry in Rocket), the brains of the outfit, to get his due. Jimmyís descent into this heart of darkness encounters much that seems authentic (faces, especially, though Dillon has been called to task because the only Cambodian women shown are prostitutes), much that is self-consciously weird, and much that is trite. Like the noble cyclo driver who always seems to bail him out, or Sophie (Natascha McElhone), the innocent art restorer (can she restore him?), or Gérard Depardieu as a hammy hotel keeper with a big gut and a pet python. Jimmy is not so much a quiet American as an inarticulate one, and he finds the wasteland left after one of historyís worst genocides (never quite mentioned but oddly palpable) too much for even his vestigial morals to handle. Dillon the director has more luck probing his terra incognita; the film has flaws but also definite feeling. (116 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: May 9 - 15, 2003
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