Searchers 2.0

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Venice International Film Festival

VENICE, Italy -- "Searchers 2.0," Alex Cox's first feature since 2002's "Revengers Tragedy," is a road movie -- ah, we have had so many, some would moan -- but it goes a couple of steps beyond that. On the face of it, it is a tale of revenge and justice. Then, as the reels unfold, it is apparent that there is more nostalgia and longing than mere hard feelings, ingredients to get the work into the commercial circuit. In any case, it is hardly festival material, and even at the Venice Film Festival it was not part of the more serious and academic competition and outside competition sections.

The film opens with a beautiful sunrise in an American countryside. As we go along, there are equally stunning visuals captured to mesmeric effect by cinematographer Steven Fierberg. Aging Mel (Del Zamora) and Fred (Ed Pansullo) fancy themselves actors, but all that they have to their credit is a single performance as child artists in "Buffalo Bill vs. Doc Holiday."

That sole appearance was enough for a lifetime, given the nasty experience on the set, where legendary screenwriter Fritz Frobisher (Sy Richardson) savaged them to get them wailing for a particular scene. Mel and Fred obviously have not forgotten the pain. Years later, they find a chance to avenge their humiliation when Frobisher agrees to a Q&A session at a screening of "Buffalo Bill vs. Doc Holiday" in Monument Valley.

Mel convinces daughter Delilah (Jaclyn Jonet) to drive them on the three-day road trip. The long journey exposes them to each other's idiosyncrasies. There are times when the movie is hilarious, but others when the script seems to be yawning, with not enough happening to keep the road run exciting. The old men's banter about Westerns and heroes like John Ford bores Delilah -- it might bore some of us as well. To add to this, she forgets to bring her nerve-calming medication, and thus suffers from an unusually severe "right-and-wrong syndrome."

Great visuals and peppy music spice up the story, which by itself is threadbare. The performances are even, though sparks of ingenuity can be seen in Richardson, in those scenes where he is confronted by Mel and Fred. The character of Delilah seems largely an embellishment that jars, and one suspects that she was put there in the first place as a relief in an all-male drama.

SEARCHERS 2.0
New Concorde/Cowboy Outfit
Credits:
Screenwriter-director-editor: Alex Cox
Producers: Jon Davison, Daren Hicks, Simon Tams
Director of photography: Steven Fierberg
Production designer: Cecilia Montiel
Music: Dan Wool
Cast:
Mel Torres: Del Zamora
Fred Fletcher: Ed Pansullo
Delilah Torres: Jaclyn Jonet
Fritz Frobisher: Sy Richardson
Running time -- 96 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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