Leave it to Wim Wenders to make a film about violence...without violence.
The ensemble piece revolves primarily around events in the life of movie producer Mike Max (Bill Pullman), whose ultra-violent epics finally come home to roost when he is kidnapped and nearly killed by a pair of bungling contract killers. After escaping under rather uncertain circumstances, Max goes underground, living with the family of a Mexican laborer who later helps him uncover the identity of his would-be executioner. Clues to the caper eventually turn up in the hands of surveillance expert Ray Bering (Gabriel Byrne) while testing a top-secret citywide network of powerful video cameras. As events steadily move the two men closer to solving the mystery, other characters are inadvertently entangled in the web of intrigue. Max's dissatisfied wife Paige (Andie MacDowell) anxiously plans for their divorce while a young detective (Loren Dean) investigating circumstances surrounding Max's disappearance becomes romantically involved with Cat (Traci Lind), a stuntwoman-turned-actress.
Suffice it to say that the resolution of the "mystery" is considerably less than satisfying, especially in light of the careful and deliberate setup. Audiences will be expecting far more in this regard than the film can hope to deliver. Wenders' choice to allow all of the story's violence to occur offscreen, though interesting in concept, is very odd in execution and seems to underscore the film's overall lack of dramatic energy. On the other hand, Wenders' observations and subtextual commentary about violence in American society are well-served by the nuances of Nicholas Klein's script, affording the director the chance to philosophize less obtrusively yet no less effectively than in past films. Movie buffs will find several gems to take home, including a handful of in-jokes courtesy of Udo Kier as a European director-gone-Hollywood and a cameo by the great Samuel Fuller as Gabriel Byrne's father. Starring Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell, Gabriel Byrne, Loren Dean, Traci Lind and Daniel Benzali. Directed by Wim Wenders. Written by Nicholas Klein. Produced by Deepak Nayar, Wim Wenders and Nicholas Klein. An MGM release. Drama. Rated R for language. Running time: 123 min. Screened at Cannes