CANNES -- Girl in black underwear with Luger tucked backside over her tramp stamp -- that's about the narrative extent of this blockheaded thriller from filmmaker Olivier Assayas. Starring Michael Madsen as a sleazy international wheeler-dealer and Asia Argento as the bad girl, "Boarding Gate" is chock full of elements that never spark beyond one-sheet dimension. Commercially, it might nail minimal coinage as a video rental before it's handcuffed by murderous word-of-mouth.
Based loosely on a tabloidish tale of a French financier who was done in during an S&M session by his playmate, "Boarding Gate" is a leaden mishmash of cliche story parts. Numbingly distended by over-written exposition, this pseudo-slick thriller is, most woefully, visually non-alluring. Worse, there are no sympathetic characters and the femme fatale, with her neo-Manson girl hairdo, is neither dangerous nor seductive enough to stir our even basest, hard-noir interests.
Screenwriter-director Olivier Assayas has crammed a high-concept scenario into a soap-opera plughole: For the first half of the film, the brawny businessman (Madsen) and the brazen other woman (Argento) snarl psycho-sexual twaddle at each other. He's a business dinosaur who likes his whisky, she's a thrill freak who craves the risky. They're a complementary set of manipulative scumwads.
When she shoots him in the back halfway through the scenario, the storyline then lumbers into a chase mode. It also stops the narrative dead in its tracks: A crud has just wiped out a blockhead, why should we be interested in her attempted escape? Well, perhaps because she high-foots it to Hong Kong and the cityscape is somewhat interesting. However, such minimal distractions do not obscure the overall odious nature of the characters and the humdrum nature of the storyline. Hong Kong star Kelly Lin survives the cinematic carnage with a sexy, hard-edged turn as an iron-willed woman.
Two fine performers, Michael Madsen and Asia Aregento, are done-in by the dim-witted dialogue and slipshod nature of the psychological scenario. Madsen, with his bulked-up frame and black hair coloring, would only need an inch of sideburn to slip out of this thing into an Elvis impersonation contest. Even worse, Argento is saddled with such a dud-part and such slob-style costumes that she comes across more as an airport stripper on her last legs than a filmic femme fatale.
Generically, the noir-thriller possibilities, including the form's smart perversities and subversions, are left untapped in Assaya's sloppy script. Under his equally uninspired directorial hand, the film's dim-bulb lighting and slipshod framings spark neither perspective nor excitement. Groping for sizzle with perfunctory night-spot stops, Assayas only further numbs our senses with the grueling techno-glop soundtrack.
Technically, "Boarding Gate" is in every aesthetic aspect a one-way ticket for audiences embarking to the nearest theatrical exit.
Memento Films International
In association with Canal Plus TPS Star
Screenwriter-director: Olivier Assayas
Producer: Francois Margolin
Director of photography: Yorick Le Saux
Production designer: Francois-Renaud Labarthe
Editor: Luc Barnier.
Cast: Sandra: Asia Argento
Miles: Michael Madsen
Sue: Kelly Lin
Lester: Carl Ng
Lisa: Joana Preiss
Andrew: Alex Descas
Kay: Kim Gordon
Running time -- 105 minutes
No MPAA rating