"Some things are buried for a reason," reads the teaser for "Loot," Darius Marder's meandering treasure-hunt movie and a prime candidate for immediate interment.

“Some things are buried for a reason,” reads the teaser for “Loot,” Darius Marder’s meandering treasure-hunt movie and a prime candidate for immediate interment. Valiantly trying to divine some overarching moral from the story of a Utah car salesman’s obsession with lost booty, writer-helmer-editor Marder is saddled with characters, circumstances and a mapless narrative that simply don’t warrant being sought out, and in which auds will discover very little.

“Loot’s” resident obsessive is Utah native Lance Larson, who, besides selling cars, runs a mountain-bike business, is a graphic designer and markets lawn accessories (“The next pink flamingo,” he says, dangling a yellow plastic tulip). That Larson needs something to ratchet up his energies, as well as his sales skills, becomes immediately apparent.

Larson is on a crusade to recover World War II treasure: Andrew Seventy, a reclusive packrat, once buried a chest containing Japanese samurai swords and Asian currency in a jungle in the Philippines. He has no way of telling Larson how to find it — viewers will be perplexed as to how much this cache is actually worth — but he did have a map, which he can’t find. Searching through Seventy’s house, which suggests a Filene’s Basement organized by gerbils, goes on for months. And it feels like it.

Seventy’s counterpart is Darrel Ross, a vet from the war’s other theater: In 1945, in a bombed-out village in Austria, he and a platoon mate hid a load of gems — which they had taken from a bombed jewelry store — in the roof tiles of a farmhouse. Ross doesn’t know where he was and, to make matters worse, he’s gone blind in the intervening 50 years. It’s not a promising scenario: When Larson and Ross visit the scene of the crime, they don’t arrange for a translator, don’t know the name of the town and aren’t quite sure what year the war ended. If NASA had been this organized, Apollo 11 would have landed in New Jersey.

Marder has one electrifying scene with Seventy — it’s not quite worth the price of admission, but it’s pretty fantastic. Otherwise, “Loot” doesn’t really pay off. There’s a hint of a unifying theme among the principals: The older men have both lost sons to drugs, and Larson’s son Michael has engaged in his share of substance abuse, which suggests they hunt for treasure in order to sublimate their common pain. But it’s only a suggestion. Marder, surely, was looking for a big bonanza at the end of “Loot,” but suspense and catharsis prove as elusive as two old men’s memories.



An ADD Studios presentation. Produced by Darius Marder. Executive producer, Dan Campbell. Directed, written, edited by Darius Marder.


Camera (color, DigiBeta), Marder, Anson Call; music, Max Avery Lichtenstein; sound designer, Cory Melious; associate producers, Zebidiah Millett, Misha Collins, Charles Ramsey. Reviewed at Landmark Cinemas, Los Angeles, June 11, 2008. (In Los Angeles Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 88 MIN.


Lance Larson, Andrew Seventy, Darrel Ross, Michael Larson.
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