New Rose Hotel [1998]

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Abel Ferrara's adaptation of William Gibson's cyberpunk story (from the short-story collection Burning Chrome) is quite faithful to the source, which may explain why it bypassed cinemas almost completely to emerge on video. Gibson's story takes place entirely in flashback as its hero shuffles through the events that brought him to the tiny shoebox of a room in the New Rose Hotel, on the run and out of ideas. Ferrara winds up in the same place, but first plays out his story for us to see... sort of. Industrial headhunters Christopher Walken, limping through the movie with a cane and a rumpled white suit like an emaciated Sydney Greenstreet, and Willem Dafoe, his jaded, tired partner, hatch a plan to lure a genetic-sciences genius from one corporation to another for a $100 million payoff. The key to their plan is seductive bar girl and part-time prostitute Asia Argento, a flirting chanteuse with whom Dafoe falls in love. Set in a grimy technological future of generic cosmopolitan cities, the characters wander fluorescent mazes of bland malls, murky bars, and faceless hotels, a Blade Runner future without the spectacle. Apart from brief, blurry video-camera surveillance, the entire operation occurs offscreen, reported through conversations and phone calls, and even Ferrara fans may find the murky, dawdling narrative and cerebral conclusion disappointing. But the tech-noir conspiracy gives way to Ferrara's real story, the collision of the dreamers and the shadowy world they live in. --Sean Axmaker

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