Director: Emanuele Della Valle
Written by: Emanuele Della Valle
Cast: Adewale Akinnuove-Agbaje, Heather Graham, Jennifer Ehle, Anthony Mackie, Christopher McDonald, Reyna de Courcy
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/6/17
Opens: September 15, 2017
“Wetlands” is not the only police drama cast amid the waves and sands of Atlantic City. “Boardwalk Empire,” featuring most scenes in Atlantic City, has TV action that is so good, with so many plots and subplots that merge easily, that it gives credence to the idea that cable is quite often better than the movies. Atlantic City today is known as a has-been, a place once visited for getting into wheels on the boardwalk, chewing salt water taffy, and gambling in hotels that are now dilapidated, that the whole area seems to have given way to our jet age, making cross-country and intercontinental visits so alluring that New Jersey can no longer attract a tourist-hungry crowd. At least its murky, foggy, and shoddy façade makes for detective-noir films, especially outside the three or four months that still beckon waves of visitors.
Now, Emanuele Della Valle in his freshman expedition as writer and director, attempts an arty version of a detective tale, or at least he may think that having characters talk in low tones with only a modicum of melodrama gives the picture class. Instead it comes off as a soporific take on people who are down on their luck, having some hope of redemption and recovery from some bad habits. Those bad habits on display here are not only about heroin and liquor, but are the more dangerous ones: estrangement and infidelity.
In the story Babs Johnson (Adewale Akinnuove-Agbaje), a top Philadelphia cop who is caught up in corruption and drug addiction, goes to Atlantic City to try his luck with his family, namely his ex-wife Savannah (Heather Graham) and teen daughter Amy (Celeste O’Connor). He has a lot of work to do if he wants to turn the clock back, as his daughter gives him the bird and his ex-wife, still hostile, prefers to company of a woman (Reyna de Courcy). Wearing the badge of a detective, Babel Johnson is embraced by his new, ebullient partner, Detective Paddy Sheehan (Christopher McDonald), a lover of gambling and of life itself. But Sheehan has a family problem as well as his wife Kate (Jennifer Ehle), a newscaster on local TV who pops pills to keep thin and youthful, is proven unfaithful. When a local girl is found murdered, the plot turns into a whodunit, with even Babs considered a person of interest.
The plot lurches forward in fits and starts, with Kate’s newscasts more excited about an upcoming storm that Babs’s interest in solving a murder has to take a raincheck. Among the cast, Ms. Ehle stands out as a woman who, because of age, worries that she may be cast aside to make way for someone younger.
Unrated. 98 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – C
Acting – B
Technical – B-
Overall – C