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The Dish

MRQE Top Critic

Operation Condor

Jackie Chan meets Indiana Jones —Andrea Birgers (review...)

Chan borrows from Raiders

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Silver City is a disappointment, in more ways than one. Not only do I expect great things from John Sayles, but I also had high hopes for this film, shot in my own back yard. It’s possible I have simply misread the film, looking too closely at the locations and not closely enough at the film, but even if that were the case, I don’t think it would completely account for the lackluster impression Silver City made.


Huston (background, at gunpoint), lacks the strength to center the film
Huston (background, at gunpoint), lacks the strength to center the film

Like his masterpiece Lone Star and his recent Sunshine State, Silver City is John Sayles’ exploration into a community at war with itself. As in the other films, the “war” is actually a healthy, fierce political dialogue about the future of the place where the movie is set. These films all play like Citizen Kane, with a central character investigating the plot, and in doing so, creating a fuller, richer portrait of the people and places being investigated.

In Silver City, A body is found in a pristine mountain lake while Billy Pilager (Chris Cooper), a Colorado gubernatorial candidate, is filming a commercial. The body launches an investigation into politicians, mining corporations, and immigrant laborers. Leading the investigation is Danny O’Brien (Danny Huston), a private investigator. His nose leads him from downtown Denver, to trophy homes in the mountains, to abandoned mining sites, and back to the dark basements of independent Internet publications (no doubt inspired by Movie Habit HQ).

As with Sunshine State, Silver City features a huge cast of respected A- and B-list actors. Daryl Hannah, Richard Dreyfus, Tim Roth, and Kris Kristofferson are but a few recognizable faces. On the other hand, the film’s leading man, Danny Huston, is a lightweight in comparison. Somehow, his character doesn’t quite fit him, and he lacks the intensity to really anchor the film.

Silver Polish

Somehow, Lone Star held together brilliantly and beautifully. And although Silver City follows the same formula, it doesn’t have the finished polish. All the different characters seem to inhabit different movies, and the complexity of the story seems forced, not organic. It has a much weaker emotional appeal, diminished by the scattered, whirlwind tour and the lack of a strong center.

I confess my negative reaction could have something to do with recognizing the surroundings. “Oh, that was filmed in that alley by my office — Oh, looks like that place where my friend’s wedding reception was held.” If so, I owe John Sayles and anyone reading this an apology. But I don’t think that explains it entirely, and I dare not recommend Silver City on that single “what if.”