Movie review: Grand mess in The Canyons

In The Canyons, James Deen and Lindsay Lohan (both above) play a couple who rope in Nolan Gerard Funk's Ryan (below) to work on a low-budget horror film.
In The Canyons, James Deen and Lindsay Lohan (both above) play a couple who rope in Nolan Gerard Funk's Ryan (below) to work on a low-budget horror film.PHOTOS: SHAW
In The Canyons, James Deen and Lindsay Lohan (both above) play a couple who rope in Nolan Gerard Funk's Ryan (below) to work on a low-budget horror film.
In The Canyons, James Deen and Lindsay Lohan (both above) play a couple who rope in Nolan Gerard Funk's Ryan (below) to work on a low-budget horror film.PHOTOS: SHAW

Film is bogged down by its expressionless male lead and lack of thrill

Review Thriller

THE CANYONS (R21)

99 minutes/Opens tomorrow/ *1/2

The story: Playboy producer Christian (James Deen) lets his girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan) cast handsome young actor Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk) in his low-budget horror film. The violent, manipulative Christian suspects Tara's fidelity and has her and Ryan followed, even as he and she engage in edgy encounters with strangers they meet online.

This project was going to turn out in one of two ways: a success that proves the power of grassroots Internet campaigns in launching risk-taking projects; or a spectacular failure, proving that new online fund-raising methods offer no protection against old-fashioned Hollywood egos.

To the surprise of no one (except perhaps those who contributed to the US$150,000, or S$188,000, this project raised on fund-raising site Kickstarter), this film is a dull, pretentious mess.

Two problems that plague too many films labelled as erotic thrillers cling to this work: It is neither erotic nor much of a thriller.

Director Paul Schrader, best known for his early career successes (American Gigolo, 1980; Cat People, 1982) commits ego-based mistake No. 1 by turning what could be a pacy, trashy screenplay by celebrated novelist Bret Easton Ellis into a turgid meditation on Hollywood corruption, both in the architectural and moral senses of the word. Cameras are held for longish periods on abandoned strip malls, and also on actors walking into or leaving a scene.

The amount of "sexposition" (story exposition carried out by characters before, during and after intercourse) is fairly high.

This is not necessarily a problem, except that much of the back- and-forth is of tedious television soap quality.

This work is rated R21 for sexual content and the Media Development Authority's database says that an "edited" version was submitted, and passed without cuts, with no further details given. One scene of group sex appears to end abruptly, but this is only a guess.

The casting of the heavily pancaked tabloid mainstay Lohan as the female lead Tara can be explained by the use of old-fashioned coercion, as she is also the film's co-producer.

The nepotism takes its toll on the story after several characters refer to Tara's beauty as the root cause of the drama's male jealousy and violence.

Lohan is by far the best actor of the lot (and that is not saying much), but to make her the Helen Of Troy of the piece is egotism run amok.

And the less said about the acting ability of male lead, the porn actor Deen (real name Bryan Matthew Sevilla), the better. Neither clear diction nor agile facial expressions appear to be his forte.

johnlui@sph.com.sg