So this is what it has come to for Oscar-winner Adrien Brody: shilling Stella Artois in an arch TV spot and subjecting himself to abuse in an uninvolving, inconsequential thriller. I've got nothing against Stella, lounge lizards or low-budget movies that amount to a Rod Serling doodle, but I doubt I'm alone in expecting better things for and from Mr. Brody. He's in most every frame of Michael Greenspan's Wrecked, enduring extreme physical and psychological hardship for his art. You feel his pain all right, yet the simpatico connection won't be enough to put many rear-ends in theater seats.
Playing "The Man" (enough said), Brody is put through the wringer in this single-character piece that feels like the brainchild of blurry-eyed, basement-dwelling grad students. The first third comes off like a dire acting-class exercise with Brody cursing, shivering, squirming, crying and moaning as he struggles to free himself from the passenger seat of a Chevy sedan that's crashed in the middle of the forest. There's a body in the back seat and one that's been jettisoned approximately fifty feet from the car; he's lost his memory and his mangled right leg is wedged under the dashboard.
Not only is "The Man" forced to pee all over himself, but his ordeal entails staring at his disfigured mien in the rearview mirror, drinking rainwater out of an ashtray, eating bugs and, eventually, dragging himself across the forest floor in hopes of rescue. A character dubbed "Young Woman" (Caroline Dhavernas), a faithful German Shepherd and a hungry mountain lion appear intermittently, though whether they're real or figments of "The Man's" hallucinations is unclear, as is exactly how much time is passing. To reveal more of the plot might spoil it for Brody fan club members. I will reveal however that the sequence in which the protagonist is plunged into an icy river should boost the actor's chances of supplanting Jonathan Goldsmith as Dos Equis' studly pitchman "The Most Interesting Man in the World."
The mystery driving Wrecked involves identity. Is "The Man" a guilt-ridden criminal fugitive or something much less interesting? According to the car's AM radio, three bank robbers are on the loose after killing a teller and a security guard. If he's one of them and is able to make his way to safety, he'll have to answer for what he's done. Whether or not that's enough to hold an audience's attention in theory, the film's major failing is that you don't care and never wonder what you'd do in similar circumstances. Since there's minimal dialogue and the visual storytelling fails to sustain our attention, there's ample time to contemplate such questions.
The bright spot—and what saves Greenspan's debut feature from being nothing more than a long tedious draft of an ordinary craft brew—is James Liston's cinematography. He does an admirable job of trying to find interesting angles from which to shoot the action. The production notes boast the remoteness of the setting (Wrecked was filmed on Vancouver Island, British Columbia) and it's borne out in what's onscreen. Unfortunately, the locale is so far off the beaten track it makes little sense that a car could end up where this one does.
The moral is twofold: always fasten your seat belt and beware of Academy Award winners trying to be soulfully gritty pitchmen or attempting to outdo Ryan Reynolds (in Buried) or James Franco (in 127 Hours).
Cast: Adrien Brody, Caroline Dhavernas, Ryan Robbins, Adrian Holmes and Jacob Blair
Director: Michael Greenspan
Screenwriter: Christopher Dodd
Producer: Kyle Mann
Rating: R for language and some violent content.
Running time: 91 min.
Release date: April 1 NY, April 8 LA