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Promised Land (2013)

Promises lots. Lands little.

Overall Grade: C
Story: C
Acting: C-
Direction: B-
Visuals: B

 

Summary: Matt Damon attempts his second "average Joe" movie (after "We Bought A Zoo"), this time on a plot where big, bad natural gas companies are running over little town America. All the elements were there for a decent movie, but the direction and acting fell short. Not terrible. Just not very good.

Full Review: Steve Butler is the top notch salesman for "Global Crossover Energy" (jeepers is Hollywood running out of people to come up with reasonable names for fictitious companies). He is the natural gas industry's equivalent to Tom Cruise's character in Jerry McGuire. You send him into the room to close the deal. But the comparison ends there, because where Cruise makes his character come alive with his intensity, Damon's character looks like he is about to fall asleep or simply scratch his fingernails across the blackboard of the audience's mind for 106 minutes.

There are moments when Damon looks to raise his game, but the dialog is forced to stay out of detailed and complicated arguments of science, to keep the viewers interest. While this is wise, it ultimately means the dialog always kind of languishes between character development (which is actually not that bad) and quasi-scientific environmentalism.  Some old guy affronts Butler's claims in a public meeting and all of a sudden we are supposed to believe that the movie has tension, conflict and suspense. Good golly.

By the time the movie is in full swing, all that could be done is to make the characters interesting, engaging and at least human. Matt Damon and Frances McDormand (his co-worker/assistant) have personalities that are yin/yang interesting and can be enjoyed as the characters are developed in the story. The conflict comes down to a fact-finding dual between the two gas company sales people and a mysterious environmental wunderkind, Dustin Noble (played by "The Office" star John Krasinski). I won't ruin the plot or outcome, because maybe one day you might see the film and it wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to you.

I kept hoping for the love of all things good and right that Damon would pick up a book and beat someone senseless (as he did with both a magazine and hardcover book in two his Jason Bourne movies), take on a 6-pack of armed environmentalists with just his fists, or even start ranting with power and intelligence (as he did with intensity in several scenes of Good Will Hunting- the bar room rant on history of the southern colonies is a classic!). Heck, I would have settled for a rampage where Damon is just getting mad and strides like a flat footed Olympic race-walker (as he did on the beach of Gao in The Bourne Supremacy). But instead, we get McDormand reciting tired lines of unempathetic drivel about her son, and Damon cowering in self-doubt about a process that he seems to know nothing about, after working for years to become it's Vice President of land development.

I wanted to love this movie- and I actually came away thinking that there must be better minds behind the anti-fracking lobbyists than the thin veil of dull intelligence that was thrown at this movie. The script writing (Damon and Krasinski, again), while surface witty a few times and charming occasionally, is placidly unoriginal and downright emotionless through the vast majority of the film. The directing is a bit better and the cinematography is actually enjoyable, showing off some beautiful scenes from various rural American towns.

I would save this movie for the rental shelf or Netflix. The director, actors and production team obviously saved their best for another film- you might as well too.

For parents, this movie should be reserved for children that are 11 and over. The offense for this film is only found with language, where use of the "f" word visits the script multiple times. For these infractions the movie gets its MPAA "R" rating. 

 

Amazon DVD Link: http://amzn.to/11w4GQB

 

Review by Kim Gentes


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