Top critical review
A tiresome film where it's cinematography gets in the way of its duel plot....
16 January 2007
Haven is another multi-plotted film with a huge cast of characters circling around each other who come to the inevitable clash as narratives converge. It's part terminally muddled crime drama, part revenge fantasy and part bi-racial romance as director newcomer director Frank E. Flowers' tries to bring forth his vision of life on the Cayman Islands, a life that is so deeply corrupted by booze and drugs and violence.
Despite boasting a large and impressive cast, including Stephen Dillane, Orlando Bloom, Bill Paxton, and Agnes Bruckner - and even Bobby Cannavale in a small supporting role - it becomes readily apparent that the film itself has way too much plot, too many characters, too little character motivation.
The acting borders on the silly to the histrionic and the film seems addicted to its own obsession with depicting sleaze and a sort of tawdry adolescent glamour, and the gritty and erratic cinematography is just so intrusive that it ultimately gets in the way of telling the story.
Obviously the Cayman Islands has a reputation for being a haven for the tax free, at least that's what business man Carl Ridley thinks (Bill Paxton) when he winds up fleeing the Feds in Miami suspected of laundering millions of dollars. Together with his daughter Pippi (Agnes Bruckner) - who falls in with a scamming local kid (Victor Rasuk) - Carl tries to bank his money whilst also trying to find his despicable financial adviser (Stephen Dillane).
Elsewhere on the island a different sort of poor local (Orlando Bloom) is conducting a secret romance with the comely daughter (Zoë Saldaña) of a powerful, rich island native (Robert Wisdom), which is uncovered by her family's hotheaded weakling son (Anthony Mackie), who throws acid in the cute poor boy's face.
Then ''four months later,'' the miasma of duel plots merge into one and build to a last-minute climax, in which revelatory connections are made. It's sort of compelling to discover how all the characters are connected but the time this quasi Robert Altman-like meeting of unrelated characters happens - and even if the viewer has kept track of all the characters - it's hard to care about much of anything, other than knowing the film is nearly over.
The whole proceedings are made even more incomprehensible by the jittery, washed-out and overly close-up camera work, which does little to add to the enjoyment of the movie. Also, rather than focus on the more compelling storyline, which is the machinations of Stephen Dillane's amusingly corrupt lawyer, Flowers focuses instead on Bloom and his burn makeup; this is a big mistake as Bloom's character is so self-absorbed and his Romeo and Juliet-like love story just isn't as interesting.
I guess this high-profile cast was attracted to an all-expenses paid vacation in the Cayman's - as there seems little other reason for them to do this movie. Ultimately, Haven becomes pretty boring viewing fare. And the never-ending brutality, petty crimes, paltry blood feuds, and cattiness among the drug-addled populace do not ingratiate either with the local culture or the characters to anyone, in the movie or the audience. Mike Leonard January 07.