By John Latchem | Posted: 14 Mar 2009
Rated ‘R‘ for some violence and language.
Stars Val Kilmer, Marg Helgenberger, Wilmer Valderrama, Bobb’e J. Thompson.
The film concept of in medias res, to start the movie in the middle of the action, is often employed by filmmakers to thrust the audience into the story through the curiosity of unanswered questions.
Such a format is often paired with a flashback structure that tricks the audience into staying interested by trying to sort out the different storylines in their heads. The risk comes in raising too many questions that it becomes impossible to answer them all, or to effectively pay off the intrigue of the setup.
Columbus Day falls into this trap. It begins with John Cologne (Val Kilmer) on the run after stealing a small briefcase. He makes his way to Los Angeles’ Echo Park and calls an associate, who sits in his apartment handcuffed to a section of metal fence. But what’s in the case, why did John steal it, and how did his friend get into this predicament?
Writer-director Charles Burmeister throws out pieces of the puzzle while alternating between John’s memories of a heist gone wrong and his encounter in the park with a curious boy (Bobb’e J. Thompson of Role Models). Elements of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are fairly obvious.
Burmeister doesn’t exactly answer every question he poses, perhaps not feeling the need to. Instead he focuses on humanizing John by exploring his attempts to reconcile with his ex-wife (Marg Helgenberger) and daughter (Ashley Johnson).
The mesh between intrigue and emotion isn’t always clean, but the performances are effective enough to engage viewers, especially those who already consider themselves fans of certain actors in the cast.