Secrets, felonies and Patrick Swayze“11:14” is a movie centered around a car accident, with a chronology that jumps backward and forward and turns in on itself. This seems to have become a micro-genre; the fairly recent “29 Grams,” with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, meets that same basic description. But “29 Grams” was up to fairly serious things, or presumed to be. “11:14” is just a college-kid hoot, a count-the-bodies black comedy by someone who evidently picked up his postmodernism from Quentin Tarantino.
We begin in a car with a guy drinking booze and listening to the Ramones song “I Just Want to Have Something to Do,” and just about the first thing we see is a sign reading “Middleton: A Happy Place to Live.” We’re warned right off the bat, in other words, that we’re in for the ploddingly obvious. Middleton is going to turn out to have dark secrets, and the driver will have far more to do than he can handle.
Dating from 2003 and apparently unreleased in the United States (except at a couple of film festivals), “11:14” is being marketed in Korea with Hilary Swank prominent in the posters, presumably because of the recent success of “Million Dollar Baby.” Her character, though, is no more prominent than seven or eight others in this round-robin ensemble movie, whose cast has pretty good freak-show value.
The driver mentioned above, for instance, is played by Henry Thomas, who, in 1982, was the little boy in “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” Patrick Swayze, who was a teen idol a few years after “E.T.” came out, plays an ineffectual fool of a father, and Barbara Hershey is his busybody wife. One of a trio of ne’er-do-well teenagers is played by Colin Hanks, Tom’s son. The movie’s writer and director is a rookie named Greg Marcks, who, indeed, turns out to be just old enough to have been exposed to “Pulp Fiction” at an impressionable age.
Henry Thomas’s liquor-soaked drive is interrupted, at 11:14 p.m., by a human being he crashes into. His attempt to hide the body is interrupted by Barbara Hershey, who assumes he’s hit a deer and insists on calling the police, to be helpful. The cop arrives and soon figures out what’s up. He hauls Thomas toward the back seat of his car, where Hilary Swank is already there in handcuffs. Henry manages to flee into the woods, and soon finds himself at Hershey’s house, where she’s just gotten a call informing her that her only child has been struck by a car.
Then, suddenly, we’re going backward in time, and we find ourselves in a van with Colin Hanks and two other clowning teenagers on a vandalism spree. The driver gets distracted and... hits someone. A severed penis soon enters into the plot, but you don’t want to know about that.
By the end, the story becomes reasonably absorbing. But a constant irritation is the filmmaker’s evident belief that he’s being cheeky and daring. In truth, there’s nothing more 1990s than a “Pulp Fiction” chronology, unless it’s a severed penis joke. And the notion of a little town crawling with intrigue is so, so tired that by this point, the radical thing to do with a movie set in a small town would be to fill it with nice folks who helped each other out and paid their taxes.
Black comedy / English
by David Moll