"Sometimes you have to go through something to find out why you did it," says Kiefer Sutherland at the start of the documentary, "I Trust You to Kill Me."
The actor's Ironworks record label released the first album by roots-rock group Rocco DeLuca and the Burden this year; the film captures the band's two-week European jaunt last Christmas with Sutherland serving as tour manager. Yes, he makes his share of rookie mistakes -- there are a few silly slip-ups along the way, but nothing Spinal Tap-ish.
So it's worth asking: Why make a chronicle of an unknown band promoted by a well-known actor? What keeps "I Trust You" from being a feature-length commercial for DeLuca is Sutherland's disarming devotion.
DeLuca and the Burden's music is a passionate, muscular mix of swampy blues and stomping rock. They're not derivative, but their sound has elements of Dave Matthews Band, Tim Buckley and U2, with hints of Thom Yorke and Lindsey Buckingham in DeLuca's keening voice.
The singer-songwriter is painted as a benign, insecure, sometimes petulant Artist with a capital "A." When the band plays its heart out to apparent indifference from the crowd, it's suggested that he rearrange the slow-building set list. His response is essentially, "No way, man, I'm an artist!"
Because director Manu Boyer's no-frills approach offers little insight into the band, for viewers who don't like the music, "I Trust You" might be a tough watch -- if not for Sutherland's engaging passion for the project and for music in general. The actor ends up being the surprisingly open and vulnerable heart of the film.
He's shown working hard, carrying equipment and handing out free tickets on Dublin streets to fill a drastically undersold house. He's also shown getting plastered beyond reason, neglecting to solve a venue problem and doing some generally embarrassing things. This is not a vanity project for Sutherland, but a labor of love.
It's also not exactly a gritty underdog story; although the band hasn't arrived yet, it has advantages that few new acts do, including a record deal and close ties with one of the world's biggest TV stars. Sutherland seems to learn a few things about himself along the way, but to say the film has an arc would be stretching it. Still, "I Trust You to Kill Me" has enough virtues -- principally Sutherland's presence and the quality of the music -- to make it an enjoyable trip.
`I Trust You to Kill Me'
MPAA rating: R for language
A First Independent Pictures release. Directed by Manu Boyer. Producers Pliny Porter, Matthew R. Brady. Camera operators Francois Buren, Jerome Blois. Editors Jennifer Tiexiera, Erin Nordstrom. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.
Exclusively at Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.
\o7Kiefer Sutherland and director Manu Boyer are scheduled to participate in a Q&A after the 7:15 p.m. show on Saturday.