Thanks to the FOX News channel, you probably know that Silver City casts Chris Cooper as a Dubya-like buffoon running for Colorado’s gubernatorial spot, but if you’re familiar with John Sayles’s work, then you know not to expect a rah-rah Fahrenheit 9/11-styled polemic. Essentially an Indiewood version of Jonathan Demme’s terrific The Manchurian Candidate, Silver City is about a prefab political puppet and the Haliburton-like corporation that pulls his strings. When Cooper’s half-wit reels in more than a fish while filming an innocuous political ad, his campaign manager, Chuck Raven (Richard Dreyfuss), enlists a local firm to figure out who may be gunning for the guy. Since Silver City is both a thriller and a comedy, it’s easy to forgive the campaign’s scarcely justified paranoia, which is more or less an excuse for a private investigator and ex-journalist, Danny O’Brien (Danny Huston), to stitch and subsequently unravel the Nashville-lite tapestry that connects the townsfolk: Billy Zane’s Big Tobacco proponent works for a Cheney-like goon played by Kris Kristofersson, who may cost Maria Bello’s gung-ho reporter her job when his all-powerful Bentine corporation buys the newspaper she works for. Further out on the sidelines: Mexican émigrés struggle with the threat of deportation, Miguel Ferrer cusses up a storm, and a horned-up Olympic-hopeful played by Daryl Hannah fucks Danny and shoots arrows at a picture of her brother Dickie (Cooper). What with the multi-culti preaching, oft-sly political commentary (Chuck interprets Dickie’s call for “cultural equilibrium” as “no hand-outs for homos”), and the rhythmic dialogue that sounds like real-life chitchat, Silver City is a Sayles production through-and-through. Which also means that there’s little visual prowess on display here. Like the very political ads being produced by Dickie’s people, the film is another one of Sayles’s headline-culled public service announcements, except this one has less internal momentum than most and even less of a discernable point. More expository than the lovely, fragile Sunshine State, the slow-burning Silver City may be equally spare but has none of its Southern comfort. Worse yet, it’s cluttered: From Thora Birch to Tim Roth, the film’s people scarcely register. Unlike Robert Altman, Sayles doesn’t know how to use the camera to emotionally enlarge his ideas, a non-aesthetic approach he’s forever used to lay his politics bare. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Because said politics see little elaboration in Silver City, the film takes on the appearance of the floating dead fish of the final shot. It’s a fabulous image: a metaphor for Dubya’s shady politicking, but also one for Sayles’s own filmmaking.
- Newmarket Films
- 129 min
- John Sayles
- John Sayles
- Maria Bello, Thora Birch, David Clennon, Chris Cooper, Alma Delfina, Richard Dreyfuss, Miguel Ferrer, James Gammon, Daryl Hannah, Danny Huston, Kris Kristofferson, Sal Lopez, Michael Murphy, Mary Kay Place, Tim Roth, Luis Saguar, Ralph Waite, Billy Zane, Frito Lopez, Rafi Quiñones
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