Movie studios have a long history of re-editing nonlinear narratives into “audience-friendly” chronological sequence, infamously butchering the likes of Lola Montès and Once Upon a Time in America. Director Baltasar Kormákur’s Inhale, however, is a true rarity. Though it was initially scripted and edited in sequential order (the original cut was released on Blu-ray in Europe), IFC Films has acquired a version where the footage has been shuffled into a crosscutting flashback structure replete with visually coded timeframes (via color grading and some sort of bleach bypass process). Which is sort of interesting in an abstract, historical-footnote kind of way, though practically it just compounds this cinematic disaster. Where the original cut of the film was clichéd and mechanical, the U.S. edit is clichéd and mechanical and initially very confusing; and the color-processed stock looks distractingly wrong, like someone in the lab forgot to carry a one or left the intern in charge for the day.
Since something resembling a plot slowly emerges over the course of the film, I guess I should explain what that is. Santa Fe District Attorney Paul Stanton (Dermot Mulroney) and his cardboard-cutout wife, Diane (Diane Kruger), have a not-particularly-cute daughter named Chloe who is—brace yourself—dying. Chloe needs a double lung transplant, stat. “We believe Chloe is entering stage four,” says Dr. Rubin (Rosanna Arquette), a moment that makes you feel really sad because, God, is this the best role Arquette could get? Anyway, Kruger spends the rest of the film communicating strength but also vulnerability by, like, staring off screen. Mulroney, meanwhile, drives down to Juarez, Mexico in search of black-market organs. There he squares off against gringo-bashing gangs, befriends an adorable gun-toting street urchin (you can call him jefe!), sheds a tear for the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold he practically leads to the slaughter, and eventually discovers that eerily reposed, European-accented director of the children’s hospital is—no way!—actually the bad guy.
If there’s an upside here, it’s salt-and-pepper stud Mulroney. With his muscly build padded by a middle-age paunch—with his deeply furrowed brow, grizzly stubble, cleft-lip scar—the actor looks as worn in and comfortable as your childhood baseball glove. Dude’s got sexy-dad down, like woah, and man does it make me wanna play catch.