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The Million Dollar Hotel

Starring Jeremy Davies, Milla Jovovich and Mel Gibson
Screenplay by Nicholas Klein
Based on a story by Bono and Nicholas Klein
Directed by Wim Wenders

IN SHORT: Don't bother checking in. [Rated R for language and some sexual content. 122 minutes]

Once upon a time, the band U2 shot a video for their song "Where the Streets Have No Name" on the roof of a dilapidated, downtown LA hotel. During the making of the video, The Edge jumped off the roof . . . on to an adjoining building ten feet below. Thus are movie stories inspired. It's been quite a while since we've had an actor running about actively dissing a film (he) stars in -- Winona Ryder dissed Boys a ways back -- but that's what Mel Gibson has been doing re: The Million Dollar Hotel, which features a whole menu worth of brand name actors in an utter washout of a movie whose sole saving grace is a soundtrack by U2 and some cool covers of songs by The Beatles and the Sex Pistols.

And we begin by seeing Tom Tom (Jeremy Davies) taking a running jump off said roof, looking through all the windows on the way down to his belly flop on the street. Just before the final splat, in voiceover which will continue throughout the movie, Tom Tom tells us how he realizes that life is good. Next thing you know ramrod stiff detective Skinner (Mel Gibson) strides into the hotel, investigating a suicide -- not of Tom Tom, who is sitting pretty as you please in the hotel lobby, but of a heretofore unseen junkie named Izzy (Tim Roth). Yep, we're in full flashback mode, initiated in about as ineffective and inefficient a manner as you can get.

This much we can say for the residents of the Million Dollar, they're all all low rent bottom rung of society, not the criminal element but the alcoholic, mentally troubled, and lonely elderly part. Besides Tom Tom, who has the mental acuity of a nine year old, we meet the dead guy's roommate, Geronimo (Jimmy Smits), the self-proclaimed Chief of the Navaho Nation. This Geronimo is neither Navaho nor Native American, but we'll leave that be. Izzy's self-proclaimed fiancee, Vivien (Amanda Plummer) tells us all of the big church wedding they had planned, despite the fact that no one can attest to the fact that they were engaged and everyone can affirm that Izzy was an observant Jew. Also part of the motley crew is John Dixie (Peter Stormare), the self-proclaimed and fully uncredited "creative force" (with help from George Martin) behind The Beatles. Dixie, who has the hair and glasses and Liverpudlian inflections of the late John Lennon, hasn't left the hotel since December 1980; he's been waiting for the "pretty p'licemen" to show up as "someone's trying to kill me." The last significant piece of the pie is Eloise (Milla Jovovich), the apple of Tom Tom's eye, though he's too shy to talk to her. Eloise is cursed with a photographic memory which has driven her crazy, and she has a certificate to prove it. Detective Skinner is as much a physical wreck as the residents are mental. His back bears the scars of fusion operations up and down his spine and he's strapped into a restrictive brace; thus the ramrod bit.

It isn't that kooky characters, as a group, can't make an engrossing movie. They can. The problem, it appears to us, is that director Wim Wenders has encouraged his actors to improvise extensively and then failed to exercise his editorial prerogatives. Buried under all the wasteful material is a decent story co-created by U2's Bono, that involves the hotel residents decision to pull off an art scam, selling worthless paintings as the work of the now deceased Izzy, whose father is a media bigshot.

As with all films that have running narration, said narration is present to make a point or clear up a poorly told story. Whatever the reason, it failed to do the latter and, if the former, we didn't care at all by the time the credits rolled two hours down the line.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Million Dollar Hotel, he would have paid...


'cuz Peter Stormare as Dixie as John Lennon does a killer version of I Am The Walrus. U2's rhythm section (bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen) join Eno and something called the MDH Band for a Spanish language version of Anarchy in the U.S.A. (U.K.), also tres cool. In general the soundtrack, predominantly songs by U2, is much more entertaining than the film it accompanies.

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