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The Air I Breathe
cast: Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, and Sarah Michelle Geller

director: Jieho Lee

95 minutes (R) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.40:1
Velocity / Think NTSC DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Following the currently fashionable model for slick urban crime drama, with run-of-the-mill philosophical musings, and edgy contemporary-fantasy moments, this fractured and episodic outing for a bunch of Hollywood names (with increasingly hit-free career trajectories), trots out narrative complexity wholly contingent upon a Chinese proverb (about happiness, pleasure, sorrow, love), while grabbing, rather desperately it must be said, for predictable twists that are poorly concealed (from any skilled viewer's foresight) by slapdash Tarantino-esque storytelling tricks and insufficient pre-production developments of its ramshackle framing device, or the makers' final strategy for editing together such a bewildering fatalistic hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated and coincidental events. That's life... Indeed, but it's not art just because the movie attempts to evoke a pointed sense of moral concurrency for its credulity-straining take on 'reality'. And so, in other words, The Air I Breathe topples headlong into the un- (self) critical dimension of neo-pretentious twaddle.

In the similarly muddled sci-fi black comedy nonsense of Southland Tales, former Buffy lead Sarah Michelle Gellar (Suburban Girl) played a porn star named Krysta. Here, she's hopeful yet hopeless pop star, Trista, or that's what her character calls herself. Forest Whitaker bets $50,000 of someone else's cash on a supposedly 'fixed' horserace, and unexpectedly finds himself trying to rob a bank to repay his debts to a monstrously egotistical mobster. Underworld madman (Andy Garcia, now rapidly becoming typecast as the numero uno of 'watchable' bad guys) is a conscienceless, hair-trigger violent, gangster of the "look what you made me do!" variety. His nasty character is nicknamed (oh, for pity's sake!) 'Fingers'! Also, Brendon Fraser (too many Mummy movies?) plays a small-time, but ace, investor that loses his perfect record at 'fortune telling', and soon falls prey to Russian hoods. Kevin Bacon portrays the doctor treating Fraser's injuries, and then, later, manages to rescue Julie Delphy's snakebite victim when he learns - quite by chance, of course - Trista's only notable claim to fame is having the same rare blood type urgently needed for Delphy's life-saving transfusion.

Human-interest stories blur so easily into soap opera. The predictability of darkest fate is nearly just as much an utterly contrived product of the marketplace, here, as idiotically named supermarket item Utterly Butterly. It's all about profound desperation and the origami of inevitability (as if the paperwork involved could not help becoming... whatever). It's a drama of subjective tensions and new age waffle. The supposedly unforeseeable is unconvincingly presented. Fraser's nominal hero contemplates the improbability of 'self-knowledge' in caterpillars that metamorphose into colourful butterflies. The Air I Breathe thinks it's one such beautiful creature but, objectively, it's really a cinematic slug.
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