The Bag Man

The Bag Man tries to be a neo-noir crime thriller but ends up as an embarrassing film for everyone involved in its making.

Instinctively, you know something is not quite right when you hear of acclaimed actors in an unheard of film that is also made by an unknown director. The Bag Man is such a film that uses, nay exploits, memorable characters of actors who now find themselves on the washing board.

These actors are Robert De Niro and John Cusack. As we all know, De Niro will always be remembered for his mob playing roles; this despite the fact that the Academy Award winning veteran has recently opted to appear in an increasing number of lukewarm comedies. Cusack, on the other hand, has never won a major award but remains a renowned character-defined actor who came into the limelight after playing a skilled assassin in Grosse Pointe Blank. What De Niro and Cusack do in this movie is basically play those characters again, but in a dark, twisted and bizarre setting that makes no sense from beginning to end.        

Perpetrating this unholy mess is first-time director David Grovic, who might have had his best interests at heart, but ends up with a barely recognizable Quentin Tarantino styled montage. And as if beefing up the Bruce Willis chapter in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Grovic creates unsympathetic characters made to look like sadists, rapists, a prostitute dressed like Wonder Woman with a pimp who looks like Nick Fury, and more sadists. These are the freaks Cusack’s Jack encounters in a dodgy motel where he is tasked with retrieving and protecting a mysterious bag. The assignment involving this dubious bag happens earlier on onboard a private jet, where Jack’s crime boss Dragna (De Niro with a ridiculous wig) offers him an insane amount of money for delivering said bag but with a repeated instruction never to look in the bag. I lost count of how many times Dragna warns Jack against peeking into the bag. What happens next is anyone’s guess – although Jack has no idea what he’s carrying, it is obvious that everyone else does and so begins a blood bath with all manner of weapons.

In a literal sense, Grovic gives a new spin to the ‘film-noir’ genre but only because scenes are so dark, it is near impossible to see what is happening. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the low budget but poor set lighting is not only a cardinal sin, it is an embarrassment for anyone associated with the making of this film; De Niro and Cusack included. Even if you overlook this technical flaw (by straining your eyes in the dark) Grovic’s co-scripted story is filled with inconsistencies and irrelevant subplots. In the middle of a killing spree, Jack has a change of heart and falls for the aforementioned hooker who just happens to hold the key to this mishmash mystery. Meanwhile, De Niro is left to dish out Tarantino inspired dialogues in between fits of impulsive violence. Worth mentioning is one particular scene that comes close to his “Baseball” segment in The Untouchables. All else is puerility, including the oh-so-great reveal of what’s in the bag – which literally feels like one of those annoying April fool’s jokes. Walking around with a bag over one’s head could be more fun, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.