[MOVIE REVIEW]Intrigue, amnesia, dust and confusion

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Intrigue, amnesia, dust and confusion

The opening credits of “Blind Horizon” appear over a palimpsest of corrupt espionage: maps, automatic weapons and the American president as seen through a rifle scope. A sudden gunshot then brings us to Val Kilmer, five days earlier, lying facedown in an arid New Mexican dust bowl with blood pooling around his head.
Still alive but temporarily relieved of his memory, Kilmer’s only clue to his true identity is an unsettling suspicion that something bad is going to happen to the president.
Neither the local sheriff, played by Sam Shepard, nor the federal agents who respond to his phone call reporting a threat to the president will take the vague ramblings of an amnesiac seriously, and the woman claiming to be his fiance, played by Neve Campbell, seems equally unconvinced of the gravity of his situation.
So Kilmer becomes singularly plagued by his compulsion to retreive his memory and, presumably, stop the assassination.
Thus the audience, along with our anti-hero, embarks on a tour of an austere small town, juxtaposed with a high-level conspiracy revealed by Kilmer’s increasingly linear flashbacks.
The premise sounds a lot better in theory than it winds up being on the screen.
Director Michael Haussman’s choice to film in a light sepia tone, evocative of the shadowy, corrupt drama often associated with southern U.S. border towns, is an indication of the general mood he was trying to achieve. He interweaves subplots involving a human-trafficking local deputy, a flighty reporter who keeps turning up at odd moments and Amy Smart as Kilmer’s young nurse, who keeps appearing around town to add sexual tension to the plot.
At first, Kilmer’s sense of urgency seems misplaced in this one-dimensional town. He does not so much try to figure out what’s happened as wander the town aimlessly, intermittently attacked by flashbacks and stricken with associations.
The closer the film comes to finally coalescing, however, the more comfortable it seems to become in its neo-noir skin. The hallmark is a love sequence that mingles a real-time encounter between Kilmer’s and Campbell’s characters with his memory of an encounter with Smart’s character.
As the pace quickens, the threads beg to be tied off ― and then, in a whirlwind of chance and choice, they are. But somehow, the film still feels hollow.
It tries to raise the provocative possibility of the mind as a clean slate. “What would you do if everything were different?” asks Smart, who is arguably the resident femme fatale, or would be if her involvement in the story were anything more than incidental. But even the stab at philosophy proves thin.
It’s not that the plot is flimsy; on the contrary, it’s tight, and delivers a swift round of zigs and zags right at the end.
What makes the film feel empty is that it uses recycled material that’s been reorganized, not reinvented. Ultimately, “Blind Horizon” is an assassination thriller married to small town mundanity, packaged in art house cinematography. It’s an attempt at a daring new combination, but the results on the screen still need some work.

Blind Horizon
Thriller, Drama / English
80 min.
Scheduled to open next Friday

by Kirsten Jerch
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