Hidden behind an utterly uninteresting title, this heady mix of fantasy, romance and mind-bending monkeyshines survived a tortured development process — several directors and actors, including Colin Farrell and Mark Wahlberg, came and went — to emerge, if not unscathed, intact and intense. 1992: Having taken a bullet in the head during the First Gulf War, Sgt. Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) is shipped back to his native Vermont with shock-related amnesia. While trying to hitch a ride, he comes across a retching drunk named Jean (Kelly Lynch) and her 8-year-old daughter, Jackie (Laura Marano), stranded beside their disabled truck. Jack gets the truck started and gives the curious Jackie his dog tags, but the panicked, flailing Jean peels out and leaves Starks on the cold roadside. He later thumbs a ride from an amiable-seeming young man (Brad Renfro), and that's when things get a little hazy. The unassailable facts: a state trooper winds up dead and there's no sign of either the driver or the family Starks claims to have helped. Tried for murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity, he's remanded to the gloomy Alpine Groves psychiatric hospital and subjected to hair-raising experimental therapy by Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson), who drugs Starks, straps him into a straitjacket and locks him in a morgue drawer for hours on end. Lying in the claustrophobic darkness, Starks is assailed by sanity-jolting flashbacks. But he also experiences a lengthy dream, hallucination or premonitory vision — whatever it is, Starks meets an alcoholic waitress named Jackie (Keira Knightley) whose pitiful mementos of a life on the skids include a set of dog tags. They once belonged to a man named Jack Starks, who died, Jackie says, a few days after they met in 1992. When Starks emerges from the drawer, his mind is reeling: Could he really have experienced the future and, if so, can he change it or are he and Jackie doomed, he to die and she to re-create her mother's sad, wasted life? Pigeonholing director John Maybury's haunting drama as JACOB'S LADDER (1990) by way of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (2004) is to focus on the gimmicks — post-traumatic stress syndrome, time travel, creepy mental institutions — rather than its intense emotional wallop. This kind of gloomy razzle-dazzle isn't everyone's cup of mind-altering tea, but strong performances make it worth the effort to keep the time-tripping shenanigans straight until the surprisingly satisfying payoff.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: R
- Review: Hidden behind an utterly uninteresting title, this heady mix of fantasy, romance and mind-bending monkeyshines survived a tortured development process — several directors and actors, including Colin Farrell and Mark Wahlberg, came and went — to emerge, if… (more)