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Review: 'Collaborator' could have used some help

The would-be thriller plods along instead of creating tension and menace.

July 19, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • Martin Donovan and David Morse in "Collaborator," distributed by Tribeca Film.
Martin Donovan and David Morse in "Collaborator," distributed… (Julie Kirkwood )

Martin Donovan, a consistently fine and busy actor in films ("The Opposite of Sex," "Insomnia") and on TV ("Weeds,""Boss"), adds screenwriter and director to his resume with disappointing results in the somber, would-be thriller "Collaborator."

Oddly, it's Donovan's performance here that proves the movie's weakest link, though his writing and helming tie for a close second. As Robert Longfellow, a conflicted playwright who flees New York for his mother's (Katherine Helmond) L.A. home after his latest play flops, Donovan sleepwalks through much of the film; it's as if he's exhausted from wearing those extra two hats.

Costar David Morse fares just a bit better as the damaged, rednecky Gus, Robert's childhood neighbor who, at 57, still lives across the street with his long-suffering mom (Eileen Ryan).

The film's engine — wanted criminal Gus, armed with beers and a gun, takes Robert hostage in his mother's house — sputters when it should hum with tension and menace. But Gus, a fairly unvigilant captor, spends more time lost in hollow wordplay with Robert, defending the Vietnam War or chatting by phone with Robert's actress ex-lover (Olivia Williams) than seriously tightening the screws.

Add in unconvincing, play-by-play TV news coverage and a too-patient SWAT team and you wish Donovan had sought an assist from a few more creative, uh, collaborators.

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"Collaborator." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood.

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