The Million Dollar Hotel

on February 02, 2001 by Wade Major
   Wim Wenders reteams with his “The End of Violence” screenwriter, Nicholas Klein, on the ensemble drama “The Million Dollar Hotel,” a less glamorous tale than their previous collaboration that nonetheless voices many of the same underlying concerns. Stripped to their essentials, both films are meditations on the emptiness of conventional contemporary living and the extent to which humans may or may not reinvent themselves accordingly. Ironically, what ultimately distinguishes “The Million Dollar” hotel from its predecessors is really nothing more profound than a cast member by the name of Mel Gibson.

   The moody, noirish story, co-conceived by Klein and U2 lead singer Bono, centers on the titular ramshackle Los Angeles hotel where a colorful cast of crazies, rejects, drug addicts and generic societal dross seem to coagulate. The death of an aspiring artist named Izzy, one of the more popular inmates, generates a maelstrom of media attention when it is revealed that Izzy was the estranged son of a billionaire media mogul. Assigned to investigate the case is a partially-crippled detective named Skinner (Gibson), a bullish, determined sleuth whose tenacious methods continually put him at odds with the hotel's less-than-forthright occupants.

   But there is another layer to “The Million Dollar Hotel”--a love story between a well-meaning half-wit named Tom Tom (Jeremy Davis) and an emotionally-imbalanced waif named Eloise (Milla Jovovich), which runs parallel to and often intersects with the murder investigation, despite ultimately having little to do with it. At times, the romance almost begins to consume the rest of the narrative, a metaphoric risk that is far more interesting than successful.

   In the end, as with most of Wenders' films, mysteries and their resolutions take a back seat to philosophical pontification. Longtime Wenders fans will undoubtedly welcome the affront to conventional storytelling while others, attracted by the marquee value of Mel Gibson, are more likely to leave the theatre scratching their heads.    Starring Jeremy Davies, Milla Jovovich, Mel Gibson, Bud Cort, Jimmy Smits, Tim Roth, Donal Logue, Gloria Stuart, Amanda Plummer and Peter Stormare. Directed by Wim Wenders. Written by Nicholas Klein. Produced by Deepak Nayar, Bono, Nicholas Klein, Wim Wenders and Bruce Davey. A Kintop Pictures/Icon Entertainment production. A Lions Gate release. Drama. Rated R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 122 min.

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