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"Don't Come Knocking"

Directed by Wim Wenders.
Written by Sam Shepard.
Starring Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange, Sarah Polley and Tim Roth.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  3/21/06


"Don't Come Knocking" is the kind of movie that almost hits you in slow motion, it ambles up the street so slowly...but, even though it doesn't appear to be about much of anything, it's an interesting week-in-the-life trip as we follow a man that has made nothing of his personal life and for just a little while seems to give a damn.

We meet Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) just as he is skipping off the Utah-based film set where he is making a Western, one in a long line of films that Howard has made to fill out a mostly unfulfilling movie career.  Why he picked this particular film to skip out on is never explained, but Howard's travels to escape the contract he's signed to make this movie in the first place take him from Utah to Nevada, where his mother (Eva Marie Saint, most famously in "On the Waterfront" 50 years ago) has been waiting to see him for years.  From here, Howard makes a discovery that leads him to Butte, Montana, where he meets a person from his past that makes him re-evaluate his present.  All the while, the film's bond company frontman (Tim Roth) is hunting Howard down to return him to the film shoot in order to finish the production.

The script's dialogue is barebones, which is fine; "Don't Come Knocking" was a bit slow for me because Howard's motivations before, during, and after the film's big discovery made no sense to me nor do they make sense to the characters that he runs into.  Further, a woman (Sarah Polley) toting an urn with her dead mother's ashes inside shows up at very odd times, which made our packed-house audience giggle every time she showed up; this lady is on a mission, but the way she's holding her urn and the fact that she never really explains who she is until the very end of the film--and her character becomes not much of a surprise--was just kind of weird, out of place for a road trip saga.

In fact, everything that happens once the film moves to Butte is kind of kooky, which, again, can be cool, it just felt off for some reason.  Maybe it was how easily Howard finds all that he needs to find by just strolling into town one day; Butte seems to have not more than 100 residents, because all Howard has to do to find anyone is sit on his hotel room stoop and BAM! his intended targets show up.  Or, maybe it's the way time stops moving during the film's final 45 minutes.  Or, maybe it's how a cover band lead (Gabriel Mann) reacts to Howard after getting some big news.  I couldn't place it, but as I yawned for the fifth time as the film was finishing up, I knew that it was affecting my enjoyment of this movie.

Now, "Don't Come Knocking" is hurting in places throughout, but I enjoyed myself at points; the Roth character is hilarious and there are other funny moments sprinkled throughout the film.  It was nice to see Shepard play a character that was not spouting orders to troops (my recent memory of Shepard is from "Black Hawk Down" and "Stealth"), and Shepard really does look like the over-the-hill cowboy he is attempting to portray; his performance feels just right, even if it is a little sleepy to watch.  The shots of Butte are old school to the last; Butte seems like the town that would have doubled for the town from "A History of Violence", with a couple more retro bars and diners thrown in for good kind of reminded me of some of the nightspots in the Tenderloin and areas nearby in San Francisco, with tarnished cocktail signs and half-lit "Open All Night" neon and new age hipsters watching ska quartets in smoky lounges.  If it wasn't in Montana, I wouldn't mind checking Butte looks like a cool place.

So, for me, "Don't Come Knocking" is a mixed bag.  It's not unlike a John Sayles opus, but if you keep yourself awake there are nice things to check out.  Apparently, all of director Wim Wenders' films are this way, so maybe I'll give a couple others a look to see what the man's really about.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09