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Movie Review: Journey to the End of the Night

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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).

still from Journey to the End of the NightFraser 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.

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About Damian P.

  • Max

    I just loved this film and sat riveted from beginning to end. Like you , I love a movie that takes me somewhere I have never been before.

    But for my money, this movie material sticks to the ribs!

    In no way could this serious effort ever be considered a contender to be filed away among the bevy of cheap low budget blue washed action films sometimes we sometimes have to contend with.

    The contrasts in the movie are there, the themes of anti-heroes redemption are strewn throughout as well as ever so subtle undercurrents (a blind man as an only witness who literally “sees” nothing?)
    A woman who is saved while another is lost? To what? Fate? Is fate always so cruel?

    In my opinion the tag line for the film really shines through: Where life is cheap…Hope is priceless.

    Even when the film gets down to its final frame the viewer is tempted to think the end is the end with typical Hollywood lore and style, but not without one last camera twist that solidifies this film as an outstanding lyrical Shakespearean Hamlet etched out in the grim and dark side alleyways and barely visible lives of a dark dangerous and neglected place.

    The musical soundtrack is also worthy to mention.