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Despite the fact that popular German actor Til Schweiger is exceedingly easy on the eyes, after you begin to size up his character Eddie Schneider in writer/director Reto Salimbeni’s new DVD release One Way, you can see why Quentin Tarantino knew the man had it in him to become part of the ensemble of Inglorious Basterds.
Yet, in One Way, Eddie is our male protagonist which is the film’s greatest obstacle as it’s tough to worry about Schweiger’s constantly lying manipulator who first charms us while delivering a heartfelt speech about his love for Judy (Stefanie von Pfetten) when asking her father for Judy’s hand in marriage.
As this scene follows not just a jump in time but a horrific yet brief opener of a gang rape in the woods that ends with the introduction of a vengeance filled shoot ‘em up “General” (Michael Clarke Duncan) who may or may not be real--we’re admittedly jarred a bit by the sequencing as well as the tone established in the response Eddie receives.
For, since Judy’s father also happens to be Eddie’s boss at the advertising firm where Schweiger’s character works as the company’s creative director, Judy’s father replies to the request with a curt refusal and explains that once he’s landed a lucrative airline account the next day, then he’ll give the two his blessing. And it’s faux jokes like these served by those with icy demeanors in the never believable world of the New York firm Birk Advertising that makes Salimbeni’s film such an enigma.
Our patience for Eddie as a hero is further challenged when he makes the decision to show his devotion to his future fiancé by engaging in a crude quickie with his mistress-- arriving late for the presentation-- and then somehow shocking the executives into accepting his proposal with an over-the-top unprofessional display filled with profanity, ripping up their existing ads, and insulting them.
Yet amazingly you still can’t help sort of liking the guy overall, aside from the whole infidelity thing which by now seems to be an advertising stereotype thanks to this era of Mad Men. And even though I wasn't sure I fully bought his feelings for Judy or the mistress (the very little we see of her, of course and you can take that literally since she plays a mistress), honestly I thought Eddie had the best chemistry with his colleague and gal pal, Angelina Sable (Lauren Lee Smith).
Most likely, the reason the relationship between the two best friends who keep nothing secret from one another is saved is due to the fact that they haven’t jumped into the sack or joined the "men and women at work cliché party" but just as Judy is a much better fiancé to Eddie than he deserves, Angelina is likewise a much better friend as well.
For fairly quickly into the film, Angelina is brutally raped by Judy’s jealous brother—their colleague Anthony Birk (Sebastien Roberts)—in a painfully long sequence that still manages to avoid going for cheap tricks by focusing mostly on facial expressions, keeping actors clothed, and by the movie crew’s wise decision to use minimal lighting.
Quickly ascertaining that she is the very same wounded woman we met in the opening sequence makes Angelina’s ordeal far more excruciating especially when Eddie dutifully brings his traumatized friend to the doctor yet bears false witness to what she confides when Anthony blackmails him with photographic evidence of his infidelity. Since, when he realizes that he’ll hurt either his best friend or his fiancé with Anthony’s threats, Eddie opts to put his career and future in-laws before putting a criminal behind bars but when the plan backfires and Angelina begins to see "The General" again, revenge enters the over-crowded screenplay.
Moreover, the film seems uncertain if it wants to be a morality tale, a thriller, a psychological drama, or an exploitative revenge picture as one sequence made me fear we were heading into the same territory explored in Death Sentence, The Brave One and Closure. Yet despite this, there’s some great ideas at work in the movie but unfortunately I realized that we were following the wrong main character around throughout the entirety of One Way (therefore someone should've pulled the filmmaker over for going the wrong way from the start!).
Having been largely unacquainted with the character of Anthony Birk—Sebastien Roberts is able to fill in all the blanks for us in a scary turn yet a great deal of the time, and most importantly with Judy and Angelina who begged to be explored in larger detail, we’re completely at a loss. Additionally, the entire idea of The General is something that feels as though it had been introduced in the first draft of the screenwriting stage and then slowly deleted as the rewrites began piling up or the frames began to land on the cutting room floor as Duncan’s work is of so little consequence in the finished product that most likely he could’ve filmed his scenes in one day.
Thus, instead of tying up the loose ends or following a story we become genuinely invested in, we’re saddled with a gutless and downright despicable hero. Really rape is better than an affair? Oh yes, please let's root for that guy! And tragically the proof of Schweiger’s poorly constructed Eddie is established as if the film itself were on trial through an obligatory courtroom showdown that features Eric Roberts in an effective if brief cameo as even under oath Eddie is still able to avoid making any real decisions since luckily the strong women in his life will do it for him.
Again, there’s enough in One Way that could’ve been solidly utilized in the construction of a smart thriller… if that’s what they were going for because once more, we’re never quite certain why Eddie’s point-of-view was the one and only way to tell the story. For in the end, what we’re left with is a whole lot of side streets that lead you down them for a bit until you wish that somebody would’ve just stopped to ask for directions. Hmm, again, maybe Angelina or Judy would've been happy to oblige?
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