I like it when a film takes me somewhere I've never been, and Journey to the End of the Night is one of the few English-language films set in the dark underbelly of Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the most chaotic and crowded cities in the Western Hemisphere.
Scott Glenn and Brendan Fraser play an American father and son running a nightclub and brothel, who come into possession of a suitcase full of cocaine. They make a deal to sell the coke to African dealers, but after their drug mule drops dead in a particularly compromising situation, they draft their Nigerian dishwasher (Mos Def) into delivering the goods. Meanwhile, Fraser is planning to double-cross his father and run off with his wife, played by the stunning Catalina Sandino Moreno (an Oscar nominee for Maria Full of Grace).
Fraser will always be the unfrozen cavemen from Encino Man to me, so I was skeptical of his ability to play a backstabbing cokehead prone to bouts of shocking violence, but darned if he doesn't pull it off, effectively portraying a man driven increasingly paranoid by his intricate plan running off the rails.
Mos Def is also very effective as an African immigrant caught up in a drug deal – indeed, he's easily the most sympathetic character in the film, and I wish we had learned more about his story. The male characters in Journey to the End of the Night are compelling, but the women – especially the underused Moreno – are given little to do.
The plot of Journey to the End of the Night relies a bit too heavily on coincidence for my taste. (I don't want to give too much away, but one character turns out to be an unlikely English-speaker, while the prostitute present when the original drug mule died just happens to have a violent run-in with Fraser later in the film.) But the performances and characters make the film worth seeing.
Journey to the End of the Night was directed by Eric Eason, whose only previous film was the ultra-low-budget 2002 release Manito. Neither of his directorial efforts have been rewarded with a major theatrical release, but one hopes this will give him the opportunity to direct something bigger.Powered by Sidelines