5/16/2019

DVD Review: American Exit (2019)


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Say what you will about Dane Cook — if you've seen Mr. Brooks where he managed to not only hold his own but actually steal a few scenes away from Kevin Costner — you know that with the right role and the right material, this guy can act.

And while we never buy him as an influential art dealer, Cook is quite good in a key scene late into American Exit where he takes his estranged son to his late mother's favorite place to paint and delivers a heartfelt monologue about art and life that's so strong, it's probably why he accepted the role in the first place.

I say "probably" because at some point he would have had to have read the rest of the script, which somehow takes a premise involving the theft of a million dollar painting originally stolen by the Nazis in WWII and uses it as a mere two minute long inciting incident for a half-baked melodrama.


Heist wise, watching Cook pull one over on his shady boss Anton (Udo Kier) is about as exciting as watching a kid try to steal a candy bar from a gas station. And while there's no gas station in sight, a kid is indeed involved as, before he boosts the painting, Cook's Charlie does the same to his teenage son.

A father at the end of his rope — plagued with crippling health problems and debt — in writer-directors Tim McCann and Ingo Vollkammer's Exit, after Charlie picks up Leo (Levi Miller) at school without his ex's permission, he uses him as a distraction with Anton before heading south on a road to nowhere.

Neither thrilling as a genre movie nor compelling as a drama, the film veers wildly from one moment to the next, unsure of not only what it wants to be but also who its main characters are. Asked to swing for the fences, within his first thirty minutes of screen time Miller inexplicably moves from hating his father on behalf of his mother to getting excited about thrift store clothing to insulting strangers to asking Charlie if he can drive with little to no warning.


It's so ridiculously uneven, it's like they told the kid to watch Three Faces of Eve about three hundred times in preparation for a character revelation that is never expressed on the screen. Although undoubtedly used to help drive not the car this time but the aimless film forward, the histrionic hoops that Miller is asked to jump through are so annoying that as a viewer, you actually get to a point where you wish Charlie would just leave the kid on the side of the road.

Trying his best to bond with his son amid the chaos (and what we quickly gather is his own failing health), the screenwriters build a fascinating backstory in Charlie's past centering on his own relationship with his parents and his ex that would've made a far more interesting tale than the one we see here.

Interrupting any attempt at dramatic momentum in a series of cliched mini showdowns with Anton and his fellow art goons, although Cook fares better than Miller (who deserves hazard pay for playing a new role at the drop of a hat), Exit continues its series of starts and stops for the rest of its eighty-six minute running time.

Unable to change lanes for longer than a few minutes at a time, sadly by the time we reach Cook's moving speech, most viewers will have already longed for a real exit and turned the damn thing off.


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