It’s an inauspicious coincidence that August runs 88 minutes long. While the film’s premise is more Wall Street than Dog Day Afternoon, August and 88 Minutes are comrades-in-stupid. Together, they represent a new, indefensible breed of bad movie. These are genre films with marquee actors and modest budgets that have scripts so amateurish, incoherent, and illogical that it poisons everything and everyone associated with the film.
The difference between August and 88 Minutes is that the latter starred Al Pacino, an actor with more than enough of a track record to be given a pass for a lone flop. August, on the other hand, stars Josh Hartnett, a young actor with an inconsistent career in desperate need of an unqualified hit. Hartnett at least tries to go in a new direction by taking on a Gordon Gekko meets Mark Zuckerberg kind of role. Yet, his performance is so painful to watch — and he gets no help by screenwriter Howard Rodman — that you’re reminded that the actor’s breakthrough came with Pearl Harbor.
August focuses on a hotshot tech mogul of Web 1.0 who, after skyrocketing onto the scene in March of 2001, has seen his fortunes erode to 1% of their peak by August. The film’s trailer makes it seem like he spends the month trying to build his fortune back, but don’t be deceived. There’s no attempt to regain fortunes, or even any plot conflict to make you believe its possible. Hartnett’s Tom Sterling, CEO of Landshark, talks a big game, but has no authority to back it up. Sterling’s like an 8-year-old who tries to be a bully but just ends up looking even more pathetic.
In fact, everything about Landshark suggests childishness. Tom’s immaturity is matched by his awkward, nebbishy, kid slang-using brother Joshua (a completely lost Adam Scott), his employees whose average age must be about 15, and Robin Tunny and Andre Royo as annoyed fellow executives. It’s one thing for a movie to focus on a poorly-run company. It’s another when a non-farcical movie presents a company so hopelessly incompetent, employed by workers with no skills to speak of (and equally ineffective acting skills), and then expects you to believe this company could be worth $100 million.