Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 09/23/06 13:58:42

"Paradise Lost"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

After sitting on a shelf for about two years, someone saw fit to stick 'Haven,' a clumsy Cayman crime drama, in theatres, probably in an effort to benefit from producer and star Orlando Bloom’s increasing celebrity status. However, it just so happens that writer/director Frank E. Flowers’ hackneyed storytelling skills didn’t exactly improve with age.

Haven tells two tepid tropical tales: the first concerns a poor white boy, Shy (Bloom), and the friction resulting from his romance with the boss’ daughter, a rich black girl (Zoe Saldana); the second deals with Carl (Bill Paxton), an American businessman who flees Miami with his daughter (Agnes Bruckner) in tow, the Feds on his heels, and stacks of cash stashed away. Between the two narrative threads, all kinds of shady dealings take place under the sun between the haves and have-nots, placing the movie into that unofficial indie subgenre of beautiful people doing ugly things in pretty places, coupled with that perennial contrivance of interrelated characters under the guise of a constrained island setting.

The moderately talented ensemble make a sufficient effort for being on a paid vacation. One wonders if Bloom and Saldana filmed this right after they both appeared in the first Pirates of the Caribbean while they were still down there. The pair flirt with relative ease, although a midpoint development leaves her to mope while he looks ridiculously handsome despite a partially scarred face and relentlessly stale talent. As Saldana’s ill-tempered gangster of a brother, Anthony Mackie gets to pout even more than she does. Meanwhile, Paxton grows suspicious of his grumpy financial liaison (Stephen Dillane, who Paxton directed in The Greatest Game Ever Played), while Bruckner almost immediately begins to hang out with the wrong crowd as a virtual double for Scarlett Johansson's younger self.

A Cayman native, Flowers tries to impart the message of how the islands have spoiled their natural splendor after becoming more of a financial haven for rich white outsiders rather than an indigenous oasis for its residents. However, both the point and the performances are undermined by cinematography and editing techniques so tremendously impatient they would make Tony Scott dizzy, in addition to a chronology as out-of-line as every other character’s personal agenda and makes matters more frustrating than fascinating. If both the story and storytelling had been relatively straightforward, things might have been borderline interesting and the relationships could resonate to a greater depth. It’s a pity that filmmakers like Flowers feel the need to employ a convoluted structure, an ungainly visual sensibility, and a handful of hollow metaphors to phonier and sloppier effect. (Viewers even get subtitles when they don’t really need them and never when they really could use them to decipher the local dialect.) The stories intertwine with less of a genuine rhythm and more of an artificial convenience, simply connecting characters and events at the writer/director’s whim.

The whole overdone shebang unfurls at what could be kindly referred to as a leisurely pace before coming to an unremarkable finish, so much so that one begins to realize that perhaps 'Into The Blue' would have made for a more rewarding investment of time as far as tropical thrillers go, if only in a superficial sense. Either way, however lovely the view, there simply isn’t enough going on beneath the surface to merit a visit.

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