Local color has rarely been more colorful than in Andrzej Krakowski's resplendent Guatemala-set outing.

Local color has rarely been more colorful than in Andrzej Krakowski’s resplendent Guatemala-set outing, “Looking for Palladin.” Genial showcase for Ben Gazzara casts the indomitable near-octogenarian as a two-time Oscar winner who has abandoned Tinseltown for the laid-back society of artistic expats in Antigua, which the helmer renders with warmth and flair. When into this Edenic existence comes that ugliest of ugly Americans, a Hollywood agent (David Moscow), “Palladin” shifts uneasily into strident comedy and murky psychodramatics. Bowing Oct. 30 at Gotham’s Cinema Village, this amiable but uneven pic reps an eccentric geriatric alternative to youth-geared studio and indie product.

Josh Ross (Moscow) arrives in Antigua in search of the reclusive Jack Palladin (Gazzara), with a studio offer of a million-dollar cameo in a sequel to one of his hits (the fact that he died in the original is apparently irrelevant). Jack, a rich man whimsically serving as a cook at a popular cafe, is well known to Antiguans yet cannot be traced by Josh. Flaunting his contempt for anything Third World, Josh alienates all potential sources of information and is sent from pillar to post by a succession of feisty characters.

As embodied by Moscow, Josh registers as a fairly one-dimensional a-hole, with emotions ranging from uninflected rage to unimaginative sarcasm. Bitching and pitching to handlers and clients in L.A., he positively radiates loserdom. And when he finally finds Jack, various rants, showdowns and epiphanies ensue over the course of a fateful, leaf-turning night.

Gazzara, his voice roughened by a bout with throat cancer and his gait showing vestiges of a stroke, effortlessly dominates his young co-star. Though Moscow navigates his character’s transformation from buffoon to human being with surprising finesse, his essential callowness doesn’t hold the screen opposite Gazzara’s lived-in ease. That ease encompasses Gazzara’s eclectic international coterie of friends and lovers (including Talia Shire as his live-in g.f., Bahman Soltani, Vincent Pastore, Angelica Aragon, Jerry Carlson and Pedro Armendariz Jr.) and informs the warm-toned, elegant architecture of the town.

Krakowski shoots much of his film in long shot, his expatriate characters now an integral part of the cityscape; visuals are suffused with Guatemala’s vivid palette and organic rhythms.

Looking for Palladin

Production

A Wildcat Releasing release of a Pine Hill and Tousi production in association with Maya Cine Digital, Full Moon Angel Cine Independiente. Produced by Mahyad Tousi. Executive producer, Majka Elczewska. Co-producers, Andrzej Krakowski, Mendel Samayoa, Jerry Carlson, Babak Rassi. Directed, written by Andrzej Krakowski.

Crew

Camera (color), Giovanni Fabietti, Alberto Chaktoura; editor, Babak Rassi; music, Alan Kushan; music supervisor, Giacomo Buonafina; production designer, Jorgi Rossi, Rene Bustamante; costume designer, Jennifer Miekle; sound, Buonafina, Elliott Taylor, Bob Pomann; sound designers, Chris Egert, Tina Hardin; associate producers, Ellyn Long Marshall, Maria E. Nelson, Ann Smith, Bahman Soltani, Ariel Brenner; casting, Marshall, Nelson. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Oct. 28, 2009. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Ben Gazzara, David Moscow, Talia Shire, Pedro Armendariz Jr. Vincent Pastore, Angelica Aragon, Bahman Soltani, Jerry Carlson, Robert Youngs. (English, Spanish dialogue)
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