Pauline Kael famously remarked after watching Michael Cimino’s initial 219-minute version of “Heaven’s Gate” in 1980 that she knew what footage should be cut but couldn’t think of any she’d want to keep. When “Haven” was shown at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2004, it ran 118 minutes; the current release print is a mere 98. Perhaps the editing has something to do with the fact that the movie is so disjointed and confusing. But considering how dreadful what remains is, one can only imagine with a shudder how horrible those lost twenty minutes must have been.
As written and directed by Frank E. Flowers, this is one of those pointlessly complex movies that shuffles various stories largely independently before tying them all together in the end. Not only that, but it plays with the chronology so that events are sometimes shown out of order or repeated from different perspectives. It takes a lot of work to keep up and disentangle the threads–which would be fine if the picture were worth all the effort. But it isn’t; the characters are all thoroughly unpleasant, so that it’s impossible to generate any sympathy for them, and the plot issues have no human resonance, so it’s equally impossible to care how they’ll turn out. As a result the movie feels like work wasted, a puzzle not worth solving.
The setting is the Cayman Islands, in Michael Bernard’s rather flat cinematography not a terribly attractive place, and given the location it’s not surprising that the plot has to do with money laundering and drug-dealing. One thread involves Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton), a well-to-do Floridian involved in shady doings who’s informed one day that a federal force led by Agent Martinez (Bobby Cannavale) is about to search his posh home. He quickly gathers together the cash on hand–a million bucks or so–and escapes with his daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner) to the Caymans, where he expects help from Mr. Allan (Stephen Dillane), his sleazy lawyer, who actually has other plans in mind. When the two reach their condo, Pippa finds Fritz (Victor Rasuk), a local wannabe thug, using the place as a crash pad, and immediately links up with him to go to a party hosted by drug kingpin Nigga Rich (Raz Adoti).
Elsewhere a fisherman called Shy (Orlando Bloom) has fallen for Andrea (Zoe Saldana), whose volatile brother Hammer (Anthony Mackie) responds by assaulting and disfiguring him. The man becomes a recluse, sending Andrea into a tailspin of grief and drugs and their mutual friend Patrick (Lee Ingleby), who’s also attracted to Shy, into a combination of concern and anger.
The two stories intersect when Fritz, in debt to the drug lord, arranges for his men to rob the Ridley condo to clear the ledger, Pippa gets arrested, Mr. Allan shows his true colors and Shy breaks out of his shell and determines to take revenge. The ending is downbeat, but then again, these people really deserve no less.
It’s difficult to discern what Bloom ever saw in this project (of which he also serves as co-producer) beyond a change of pace and a visit to the Caribbean. But didn’t the “Pirates” franchise already take him there often enough? Still, it’s all of a piece with his other poor choices of role lately; he’s scruffy, shambling and dull here. As for the back-up cast, no one distinguishes himself, and some–like Cannavale–really appear to be slumming.
“Haven” is likely to leave you scratching your head–not merely because the plot’s so hard to follow but because you’ll be wondering why anybody thought it was worth making. It’s certainly not worth seeing; you’d be well advised to seek out some alternative shelter, tax or otherwise.