“Everything’s cool,” we’re told in Jim Jarmusch’s latest exercise in pared-down genre-dismantling. What else would it be?
To paraphrase a David Mamet script, this mofo’s so cool, when he goes to bed, sheep count him. There’s a point, though, at which ‘cool’ becomes self-conscious, a void of self-absorption that The Limits Of Control verges on.
Leading and embodying the bare-bones plot is Isaach De Bankolé’s ‘Lone Man’, a hitman of habit, with a lifestyle of sharp suits, abstinence and repetition. He practises tai chi, orders “dos espressos” in European cafes where he meets marks, swaps matchboxes and exchanges gnomic asides, and rejects the nasty with the absurdly over-sexed babe in his room (Paz de la Huerta).
Coffee-shop two-handers? Think Coffee And Cigarettes, sans ciggies. Zen calm? Think Ghost Dog or Dead Man.
Jarmusch toys with conceits of repetition and variation, replaying dialogue with subtle emphasis shifts, so his self-regurgitations have an in-built excuse. His question seems to be, what do you get when you extract cause, effect and action from thrillers? The answer comes as repetition, variation… and a sense of chasing your own tail.
Incidental pleasures are plentiful, mind. Cinephiles will relish shades of Jean-Pierre Melville’s monk-ish anti-heroes. Chris Doyle’s lush cinematography is up there with his work on Wong Kar-wai’s films. Rock trio Boris’ droning score is terrifically hypnotic.
The casting offers pleasures, too: Bill Murray cameos, Gael García Bernal struts, John Hurt talks bohemian and Tilda Swinton bigs up Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai.
Sure, Limits’ lack of overstated drama offers reprieve from too many flash-bang flicks. But this much self-consciousness can take its toll. Dos espressos advised.
Jarmusch’s film captivates stylistically, and at least some credit’s due to his less-is-more plotting. But extensive introversion leaves it gasping for air, almost vanishing up itself.