×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Reach Me’

Wayward Southlanders of all stripes find salvation through a mysterious bestseller in John Herzfeld's insipid self-help ensembler.

With:
Danny Aiello, Tom Berenger, Rebekah Chaney, Lauren Cohan, Kevin Connolly, Terry Crews, Cary Elwes, Kelsey Grammer, Omari Hardwick, Elizabeth Henstridge, Thomas Jane, Ryan Kwanten, David O’Hara, Christoph Ohrt, Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Sizemore, Sylvester Stallone, Danny Trejo, Nelly. (English, German, Spanish dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0959306/

According to the press notes, “Reach Me” director John Herzfeld first wrote the script for this ensemble dramedy circa 2001, which makes sense given that the film bears more than a faint aroma of Herzfeld’s “2 Days in the Valley” (1997), one of the least offensive of the era’s many “Pulp Fiction” also-rans. Here again Herzfeld gives us a dozen or so SoCal dreamers and schemers — soulless gangsters, aspiring starlets, undercover cops, muckraking bloggers — whose wayward lives crisscross and collide whenever they aren’t being miraculously transformed by the words of a mysterious self-help guru. A misbegotten venture that constantly ups its own ante on histrionic overacting, ludicrous plot twists and insipid empowerment mantras, Herzfeld’s puzzling concoction is likely to make most viewers reach for the remote control when it opens in limited theatrical and VOD release Friday.

Herzfeld, whose career somehow lived to fight another day after his 1983 debut feature, “Two of a Kind” — a spectacular Hollywood turkey that imagined John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as a failed inventor and bank teller chosen by the angels to restore God’s faith in mankind — is a master of unintentional kitsch, and most of his latest plays out like a Mel Brooks or Zucker Brothers parody movie minus the actual jokes. You know what you’re in for right from the start when Herzfeld opens the film with a character named E-Ruption (Nelly), a fresh-from-the-slammer gangsta rapper who uses his appearance on a morning talkshow to plug not his latest album, but rather the self-help book, “Reach Me,” that saved his life. (He does mean that literally: Cue flashback of said book shielding E-Ruption from an enemy’s shiv in the prison library.)

Well, it seems “Reach Me” is actually all the rage within the California penal system, where it’s also been embraced by Colette (Kyra Sedgwick), who’s about to be paroled from an arson conviction (she burned down her own house as some kind of revenge on her abusive/unfaithful husband). And it’s on the reading list of Gerald (Sylvester Stallone), the editor of a Huffington Post-style website who dispatches his green reporter/lackey Roger (Kevin Connolly) to get the skinny on “Reach Me’s” Salinger-like author, Teddy Raymond, who’s never given an interview or made a public appearance. You’d think Raymond would be relatively easy to spot, given his predilection for making all his phone calls from the same Redondo Beach pay phone; but lo, this particular pay phone has so many customers (in 2014) that it takes Roger an entire montage sequence (and a can of mace in the face) before he finally ferrets out his man (a nicely rumpled Tom Berenger, giving the only thing remotely close to a low-key performance here).

Meanwhile, Colette arrives back in town just in time to learn that her actress niece (Elizabeth Henstridge) has been sexually assaulted by her co-star (Cary Elwes) on a new TV show — on set, during a sex scene, in full view of the crew (a scene in which Herzfeld gives himself an ill-considered cameo as the TV director). Fret not: Retribution looms in the form of undercover Det. Wolfie (Thomas Jane), whom the women meet-cute via car crash and then nurse back from his concussive state. Like everyone else here, Wolfie has some existential cross to bear: chiefly, his guilt over the 44(!) bad guys he’s killed in the line of duty, which means a lot of time spent in the confessional with a dejected, booze-swilling priest (Danny Aiello) — scenes that serve mainly to beg the question, “What happened to Danny Aiello?”

But wait, there’s more! All for one low price, Herzfeld also throws in a perpetually golfing Arizona gangster (Tom Sizemore, looking about as embalmed as Aiello), who dispatches a couple of goons (David O’Hara and Omari Hardwick) to L.A. to collect a debt. Except the goons don’t really want to be goons anymore — not after cracking open their own paperback copy of “Reach Me” (there doesn’t seem to be a Kindle edition) and deciding they want to maximize their own potential. And so the film creaks along until all points eventually converge on the Redondo Beach pier, where Raymond’s long-awaited public unveiling is interrupted by a merry-go-round shootout and a graphic act of dismemberment-by-rabid-dachshund.

The characters in “Reach Me” embrace the titular tome the way the characters in Christian propaganda movies (like this year’s surprise hit “God’s Not Dead”) find themselves drawn to the Good Book. But true to his typically scattershot style, Herzfeld doesn’t seem to have figured out why Raymond’s book is such a phenomenon in the first place. Mostly, we see people reading the same few pages over and over, marked by the kind of banal power-of-positive-thinking bromides (“Until you’re off this planet, you have another chance”) one might find stitched on an embroidered plaque in a hospital waiting room.

Those sentiments are countered in the film by the seen-it-all cynicism of Stallone’s Gerald, who spouts such pearls of journalistic wisdom as “You’re either toothless or ruthless” and “No one’s writing great novels anymore, they’re writing sexy books.” But Stallone, at least, embraces the ridiculousness of the role, from his cream-colored fedora and designer specs (someone’s idea of what big-time bloggers look like) to a scene that finds him splattering paint on a pseudo-Pollack canvas (painting being a real-life Stallone pastime). He’s also managed to muscle his brother Frank on to the soundtrack for a couple of original ballads, and secure a cameo for daughter Scarlet. His feast is the audience’s famine.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Reach Me'

Reviewed online, New York, Nov. 19, 2014. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 92 MIN.

Production: A Millennium Entertainment release presented in association with Windy Hill Pictures and 120dB Films in association with Red Granite International of a Seraphim Films production. Produced by Rebekah Chaney, Cassian Elwes, Buddy Patrick, John Herzfeld. Executive producers, Peter Graham, Stephen Hays, Caitlin Green, Jason Green, Christian Mercuri, Danny Dimbort, Robert Ogden Barnum, Bob Lieberman, Frankie Lindquist, Todd Williams, Susan Tannenbaum. Co-producers, Jennifer Freed, Kent H. Johnson, Gerard Roxburgh, Jack Cloud. Co-executive producers, Mark Stevens, Heather Toll, Alan Pao, Nick Sorbara, Josh Bear.

Crew: Directed, written by John Herzfeld. Camera (Redlab Canada color, widescreen), Vern Nobles Jr.; editor, Steven Cohen; music, Tree Adams; music supervisor, Sean Fernald; art director, Tudor Boloni; set decorator, John Sporano; costume designer, Justine Seymour; sound (Dolby Digital), Kim Ornitz; sound designer, Ryan Collins; supervising sound editor, Casey Genton; re-recording mixers, Rick Ash, Eric Offen; visual effects supervisor, Jack Cloud; visual effects, Cloudesign; special effects supervisor, Elia Popov; stunt coordinator, Pete Antico; line producer, Sanford Hampton; associate producers, Caroline McGorian, William Chaney, Rob Gordon; Easton Thodos; assistant director, Nick Satriano; casting, Iris Hampton.

With: Danny Aiello, Tom Berenger, Rebekah Chaney, Lauren Cohan, Kevin Connolly, Terry Crews, Cary Elwes, Kelsey Grammer, Omari Hardwick, Elizabeth Henstridge, Thomas Jane, Ryan Kwanten, David O’Hara, Christoph Ohrt, Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Sizemore, Sylvester Stallone, Danny Trejo, Nelly. (English, German, Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s “Breaking Bad” project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the [...]

  • Samara Weaving and Adam Brody Big

    'Ready or Not': That Time Samara Weaving Hit Andie MacDowell in the Face

    Samara Weaving didn’t mean to hurt Andie MacDowell, but she did just that while they were rehearsing for their new horror dark comedy “Ready or Not.” “I hit Andie MacDowell in the face by accident,” Weaving says on this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast. “It was horrible. It was [...]

  • Aracne

    Chile’s Sanfic, Mexico’s Morbido Fest Pact to Promote Latino Horror (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexican horror festival Morbido and Chile’s Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) have agreed on a long-term collaboration intended to strengthen the genre film industry in Chile and across Latin America. This partnership will see Morbido representatives attend the Sanfic industry section each year to aid in the promotion of horror projects and advise those projects [...]

  • Tom Holland'Spider-Man: Homecoming' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Tom Holland Addresses Spider-Man’s Studio Divorce at D23: ‘I Love You 3000’

    British actor Tom Holland showed face on the main stage at D23 on Saturday, in the thick of an ugly studio battle over the rights to his iconic Marvel character Spider-Man. Headlines have been rolling in for days about the contentious battle for the cinematic future of the hero, after Sony Pictures became unwilling to [...]

  • Soul Movie

    Pixar's 'Soul' Announces Voice Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey to Star

    Disney debuted a first look at upcoming Pixar film “Soul” at the D23 expo in Anaheim, Calif. and announced its star-studded voice cast. “Soul” imagines that every person on earth comes pre-installed with a soul formed and perfected in a cosmic realm. Jamie Foxx will play a middle-school music teacher on earth who dreams of [...]

  • Emma Stone Variety Actors on Actors

    First Look at Emma Stone in Disney's Live-Action 'Cruella' Drops

    Emma Stone’s Cruella de Vil is significantly more punk rock than her animated counterpart. Stone appeared via video message to debut the first look of the titular character in Disney’s “Cruella” at D23 on Saturday, also revealing that it will take place in the punk rock era of the 1970s. In the first photo, Stone [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content