Thrills and drama are left standing on the tarmac in “Boarding Gate” a limp, sleazy inanity by renowned French critic cum erratic helmer Olivier Assayas. Aiming for an erotic thriller, this out of competition entry behaves with barely more decorum or logic than many of the straight-to-video fodder currently being ignored in the Cannes market. Helmer’s profile and cult attraction of Michael Madsen and Asia Argento will garner attention, but pic is likely to follow in the footsteps of Assayas’s risible “Demonlover” that left a stain on the Croisette in 2002.
After a prolonged absence, ex-prostie Sandra (Asia Argento) makes a surprise visit to the Paris office of her ex-lover and former pimp, high-flying businessman Miles Rennberg (Michael Madsen). In between sexual overtures, hints of previous financial promises and goading confessions/accusations of past misdeeds, Sandra reveals she is pursuing her dream to own a Beijing nightclub. Miles is selling off his business to Singapore interests, and now that he is divorced, he wants to renew their defunct bondage-flavored affair, with or without the nightclub.
Though tempted by Miles’ money, Sandra now has other options. During the day she has a legit job for an international import company run by husband- and-wife team Lester and Sue Wong (Carl Ng, Kelly Lin, respectively). Unknown to Lester, Sandra is also running drugs through their company. Unknown to Sue, Sandra is having an affair with Lester.
Poised above the slippery slope, Sandra is a liability for everyone who knows her once a drug deal comes undone. From yarn’s one-hour mark, guns are brandished with too much frequency and too little purpose and narrative unravels into a murky mess as it spreads across to Hong Kong in the film’s last 40 minutes.
Like the globetrotting of Maggie Cheung’s character in the more engaging “Clean,” Sandra’s post-Paris adventures in Hong Kong are supposed to suggest a run toward oblivion or redemption.
However, Argento lacks the range (or the dialogue) to convincingly put her character across. Scenes between Madsen and Argento have a whiff of voyeuristic self-indulgence and run way too long, destroying possibilities of either urgency or intimacy.
Cast, whether native English speakers or not, woodenly recite their lines.
Opening and closing with a smart out-of-focus gimmick, helming is consistently solid, but script betrays Assayas’ already demonstrated lack of facility with thrillers. Lensing has a cool metallic look that underlines the emotionless atmosphere. Unscored pic leans heavily on recorded music by Brian Eno. Other tech credits are pro.