×

The Limits of Control

This discerningly travelogue of Spain features Jim Jarmusch in shallow poetaster mode.

With:
Lone Man - Isaach De Bankole Creole - Alex Descas French - Jean-Francois Stevenin Violin - Luis Tosar Nude - Paz de la Huerta Blonde - Tilda Swinton Molecules - Youki Kudoh Guitar - John Hurt Mexican - Gael Garcia Bernal Driver - Hiam Abbass American - Bill Murray (English, French, Spanish, Hebrew dialogue)

There are limits to artistic self-indulgence, limits to how long a filmmaker can keep spinning his creative wheels before his work approaches self-parody, and limits to the tolerance of even a devoted specialized audience for artistic vacuity, and they are all well exceeded by “The Limits of Control.” This discerningly photographed travelogue of modern Spain features Jim Jarmusch in shallow poetaster mode, grafting familiar quasi-philosophical doodles and trendy cameos onto a woolly hitman’s journey. The limit on the theatrical potential for this Focus Features release is extreme.

Drinking lots of espresso (emphatically two single shots in two separate cups) and impassively refusing to show any emotion (except once, when a waiter dares serve him a double in one cup) while making his way across Spain by plane, train and automobile, French/African thesp Isaach De Bankole makes for the most verbally inexpressive leading man since Wall-E, in his fourth appearance for Jarmusch. Blessed with boldly structured facial features that at least hold one’s attention longer than would those of most people, De Bankole scarcely says a thing as he receives a series of enigmatic instructions from a succession of contacts — “Go to the cafe … wait two days … the guitar will find you,” this sort of thing — and only springs to life while doing tai chi routines.

Pointedly ignoring the arguably overexposed Barcelona in favor of Madrid, Sevilla and other locations, Jarmusch would seem to have devoted more time to selecting — and then, with ace lenser Christopher Doyle, deciding how to shoot — the film’s striking architectural settings than he has to layering his story with depth or meaning. Structurally, given the long trek to an unknown destination, “Limits” most readily calls to mind the estimable “Dead Man” among Jarmusch’s films. But there are no cultural, spiritual or historical reverberations on this trip, only hollow echoes of such tough-minded genre classics as “Le Samourai” and “Point Blank” (after which this film’s production company was named), as well as the director’s own decade-old hitman tale, “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.”

To be sure, the surfaces are alluring; Doyle and Jarmusch approach the many beautiful buildings and locations with graceful, often curving camera moves that specifically suit the physical nature of their subjects, and steer clear of pretty postcard shots. But with the exception of the unavoidably provocative all-nude, all-the-time performance of voluptuous Paz de la Huerta as a sex bomb who sleeps with the protag but can’t get a rise out of him, the brief supporting turns, by the likes of Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt and Bill Murray, come off like insider gags that verge on the silly.

Worst of all, it just feels tired and recycled — the referencing of Rimbaud and Blake, the flagrant hipsterism that here falsifies rather than refreshes, the self-conscious plunking down of all manner of foreign actors in unlikely contexts, the above-it-all attitude toward connecting on a human level. And then there’s the music, mostly by a Japanese electronic noise outfit called Boris, that drones on ultimately to congeal into a state of undead rigor mortis.

Popular on Variety

The Limits of Control

Production: A Focus Features release, presented in association with Entertainment Farm, of a PointBlank production. Produced by Stacey Smith, Gretchen McGowan. Executive producer, Jon Kilik. Directed, written by Jim Jarmusch.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Christopher Doyle; editor, Jay Rabinowitz; music, Boris; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; set designer, Gabriel Liste; set decorator, Pilar Revuelta; costume designer, Bina Daigeler; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Drew Kunin; sound designer, Robert Hein; re-recording mixers, Dominick "The Dominator" Tavella, Hein; assistant director, Adrian Grunberg; second unit camera, Rain Li; casting, Ellen Lewis. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Beverly Hills, April 15, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 116 MIN.

With: Lone Man - Isaach De Bankole Creole - Alex Descas French - Jean-Francois Stevenin Violin - Luis Tosar Nude - Paz de la Huerta Blonde - Tilda Swinton Molecules - Youki Kudoh Guitar - John Hurt Mexican - Gael Garcia Bernal Driver - Hiam Abbass American - Bill Murray (English, French, Spanish, Hebrew dialogue)

More Film

  • Rules Don't Apply

    Warren Beatty and Arnon Milchan Settle Suit Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    Arnon Milchan and Warren Beatty have settled their two-year legal battle over the disastrous release of “Rules Don’t Apply,” Beatty’s period drama about Howard Hughes. Milchan’s attorneys have filed a notice with the court dismissing his suit against Beatty. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Milchan’s company, New Regency, sued Beatty and other investors [...]

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

  • Adam Brody'Ready or Not' film premiere,

    Adam Brody to Executive Produce, Star in 'The Kid Detective'

    “Ready or Not’s” Adam Brody has signed on to star in “The Kid Detective.” Sophie Nelisse will co-star in the dramedy from writer-director Evan Morgan. Brody will star as a once-celebrated kid detective, now 31, who continues to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity until a 16-year-old client (Nelisse) brings [...]

  • Alita: Battle Angel VFX

    How Previsualization Helps Create Pitches for Projects Like 'Alita: Battle Angel'

    Filmmakers are increasingly using previsualization, a now-standard technique for planning highly technical shots and sequences, as a tool for pitching a project to production companies, investors and studio executives — before a single full scene has actually been shot. More creatives are relying on the technique, dubbed “pitchvis,” to fashion a compelling and engaging presentation [...]

  • Theo Von arrives at the Global

    Chris Pratt's 'Ghost Draft' Adds Comedian Theo Von

    Comedian Theo Von has boarded the sci-fi thriller “Ghost Draft” starring Chris Pratt. “Lego Batman” filmmaker Chris McKay is directing Skydance and Paramount’s upcoming film, which stars “Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski alongside Pratt. J.K. Simmons and “GLOW’s” Betty Gilpin are also in talks to join the pic. Written by Zach Dean and Bill Dubuque, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content