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updated: 3/6/2014 2:55 PM

'Bag Man' burdened down by nonsensical clichés

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  • A hooker and two henchmen beat up a mob delivery guy (John Cusack) in "The Bag Man."

    A hooker and two henchmen beat up a mob delivery guy (John Cusack) in "The Bag Man."


You know "The Bag Man" is headed for the cinematic toilet the moment it opens with bad guy Robert De Niro calmly eating dinner, alone, while conducting a business meeting with John Cusack.

How come protagonists ever eat, alone, while interfacing with their evil antagonistic counterparts?

Because only villains can do it. That's one of those absurd, nonsensical clichés passed around from one Hollywood movie to another. David Grovic's directorial debut "The Bag Man" loves these clichés so much, there's hardly room for invention to breathe.

Grovic -- also the writer and a producer here -- creates "The Bag Man" as a "Pulp Fiction"/"Twin Peaks" hybrid, down to strange characters, pretentious dialogue and a leather case with something mysterious inside.

Mob boss Dragna (De Niro) tells his courier, Jack (Cusack), he must pick up the bag from a cohort, then wait for him in Unit 13 of a seedy motel out in Norman Bates country. Under no circumstances can Jack ever know what's in the bag.

Jack runs into a desperate hottie hooker (Rebecca De Costa) with blue hair and instant affection for him. Throw in two escapees from a deranged circus movie (Martin Klebba and Sticky Fingaz) and Crispin Glover as the creepy hotel manager (is that redundant?) and you've got a colossal waste of talent in service of a bleak and tedious neo-noir tale of negligible proportions.

Of course, there is that one scene in which Dragna explains what caused him to become a walking crime lord cliché: He watched the sitcom "Full House" as a kid.

Ah, that explains everything.

"Bag Man" opens at the South Barrington 30. Rated R for violence, language. 104 minutes. ★ ½

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